OPINION: Online Businesses Should Pay Their Share of Taxes
Submitted to the Northwest Florida Daily News by Destin Chamber President & CEO Shane A. Moody, CCE, FCCP
This letter is in response to your March 15, 2021, article entitled “Online Shoppers Will Pay for Tax Break Florida GOP Endorses.” While framed as an article for your paper, it is actually an opinion piece that labels the business community as “the bad guys”. The byline of the article attributes the story to USA Today writers from the Palm Beach Post and it incorrectly labels the business community. Requiring online retailers to pay the state sales tax on their sales is not a tax break for instate brick and mortar businesses.
I’m not sure when or how the business community in this country, this state, and this community became the bad guys. These businesses create jobs. These businesses pay taxes to communities that contribute to infrastructure improvements. These businesses create dollars flowing through our community. These businesses serve locals and visitors alike. These businesses sponsor local events, little league teams and give to non-profits who improve the quality of life and quality of place of our community.
Many of these businesses also advertise in your newspapers, paying fees to you and your company, and helping keep you afloat through these ad dollars. And they pay sales tax on these ads they purchase from you. Why shouldn’t online retailers be required to do the same?
The article also attempts to label this a Republican initiative. This is neither a Republican nor Democrat issue, it’s a business issue that affects the entire economy of the state of Florida. It creates a level playing field for brick and mortar businesses in our community. It requires the online retailers to pay to the state the same thing that resident businesses already pay. Our local businesses will continue to pay the sales tax. How can this be a considered a tax break as labeled in the story?
Without this legislation passing, the business community of Florida will be on the hook for a $713 million tax increase to fill the unemployment insurance trust fund that has been depleted due to a horrible pandemic that effected every business and person in this state and community. If we can save the business community $713 million dollars, why shouldn’t we? This is money that they can reinvest in themselves and in their communities. It’s good for everyone.
Florida is one of only two states that does not have an economic nexus law requiring out of state retailers to collect and remit sales tax on online purchases if they have a significant economic presence in the state (this is stated in your article). Historically, brick and mortar businesses have been at a 6 percent disadvantage in Florida compared to their online counterparts because they are required to collect sales taxes. Since the pandemic, even more retail sales have occurred online and this legislation levels the playing field for local businesses and their internet counterparts. If this helps our local businesses stay in business, how can this be a bad thing?
Finally, your story states that with this legislation, “Florida companies would the pay the nation’s lowest unemployment taxes”. Why is this a bad thing? Isn’t this the kind of story to tell business and industry looking to move to Florida? Isn’t this the kind of solution to help keep the cost of doing business in Florida low, making us a great state in which to do business?
This bill is important to Florida’s business community because it places Florida main street businesses on equal footing with out-of-state businesses and remote sellers. Tax collection is streamlined for consumers by requiring remote businesses and marketplace providers to collect and remit the tax.
The Destin Chamber of Commerce has proudly partnered with the Florida Chamber of Commerce in the battle to make sure this legislation passes. We will continue to look out for and support our local business community. I want to thank Representative Clemons and Senator Gruters for moving forward with this important tax reform for Florida businesses and I encourage everyone to contact your lawmakers and ask for their support.
As our mission statement says, we will continue to advocate for business and strengthen our community.