Gruters Pushes For E-Fairness

Taxation

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY APR 8, 2019

State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, still lists an “e-fairness” bill as one of his top priorities this year, but acknowledges the tax reform package may not advance in 2019. Still, he says Florida continues to leave $400 million to $600 million uncollected that could go into state coffers.

“The hardest pitch is, this isn’t a tax increase,” Gruters says. “This is just a way to make it convenient to consumers to collect these taxes.”

When consumers buy from Florida retailers over sites like Amazon, they don't get charged a sales tax. But Gruters says that, technically, the buyers owe that tax. Many other states do charge a tax, even if consumers don’t notice that line show up on their bill.

Gruters filed legislation this year that would both set up collections for the sales tax and slash Florida’s business rent tax. The latter tax, charged by Florida alone, has long frustrated economic development officials who say the charge hinders recruitment efforts.

At a town hall held by Gruters Saturday, retailers in the audience thanked Gruters for filing the bill. Many brick-and-mortar companies say online sales have dramatically hurt their revenues, in part because consumers want to purchase goods tax-free.

"Brick and mortar stores are getting crushed," Gruters says. "You see malls going down. It's tough to compete."

But in the conservative state House, there has been little hunger for anything that may feel to consumers like a new tax.

Gruters also serves as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and he hopes that position allows him to give cover to other Republicans.

“This whole discussion is about how the press frames this debate,” he says. “If they call it a tax increase, we lose. But this is a tax you owe and you are responsible for. This makes a convenience for consumers.”

Photo by Jacob Ogles

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