TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Fewer car sales, and a drastic drop in sales taxes from malls, tourism and hospitality caused state revenue collections for March to fall almost a billion dollars below previous estimates.
There also appears to have been a shift to more online purchases, which is renewing a call for Florida to collect a tax already owed but ignored by the state.
Sales taxes were off, falling almost $600 million.
At the same time more packages from untaxed online sales were being delivered.
“It’s growing everyday,” said Scott Shalley with the Florida Retail Federation.
Under Florida law, online customers are supposed to voluntarily pay the tax, but few do.
“And it’s just an equity issue. This is a tax that’s due. It’s a tax that’s owed, and right now Florida businesses have an obligation that foreign businesses do not,” said Shalley.
State Senator Joe Gruters tried to change the point of collection this past session, but too many thought it smelled like a new tax.
“I will tell you as the Chairman of the Florida GOP, and as practicing tax CPA, a tax that’s owed and changing the way it’s collected is not a tax increase,” said Gruters.
Only five states don’t have a sales tax and 38 of the other 45 already collect from online sales, putting Florida in the minority.
"Putting an onus on in-state retailers. People that support Floridians, hire Floridians, pay rent in Florida that you are not putting on foreign entities,” said Shalley.
And Florida is foregoing at least $700 million a year.
“I think as a result of the crisis and the move to more online purchases being made, that could turn into a billion dollars or more,” said Gruters.
Lawmakers aren’t likely to act until new reports come out in late June and July, showing how deep a hole the state is really in.
Gruters believes plugging the online gap could ease future spending cuts.
The tax collections also show Floridians were drinking and smoking more during the safer at home order.
Collectively those taxes were up just under $7 million.