Online-only retailers should collect sales tax

 

Florida’s small businesses have reason to be cautiously optimistic this legislative session. For the first time, the Florida House has passed a bill out of committee that would close the Internet sales-tax loophole.

If passed, this bill would require online-only sellers to do the same thing small businesses like mine have been doing for years: Collect and remit sales taxes. Unlike Florida’s small businesses, out-of-state, online-only retail giants are not required to collect and remit state sales taxes. This tax loophole amounts to a 6.5 percent to 8 percent competitive advantage for online-only mega-retailers, like Amazon, at the expense of Florida’s local retailers.

The March 13 letter Online sales tax unnecessary wrongly painted this is a “big business” issue. That’s just plain wrong. Small businesses like mine suffer the most when online-only sellers get a free pass.

In fact, when your local bookstore, grocer or bicycle shop decides to sell products online, they must collect the tax, while their out-of-state competitors do not. Why are we punishing businesses that set up shop in Florida and hire Floridians?

The bottom line? This loophole is nothing more than a bad case of government picking winners and losers.

Closing the internet sales-tax loophole would allow lawmakers to reduce Florida’s tax rate elsewhere, establish more sales-tax holidays or cut sales taxes for everyone.

Recent action by the Florida House means that efforts to level the playing field for Florida’s small businesses are gaining traction. That’s long-awaited good news for Florida’s small businesses.

Mitchell Kaplan, president, Books & Books, Coral Gables

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