Lawmakers are looking to require nearly all online retailers collect sales tax. But much of the gain would go to other tax breaks.
The retail giant Amazon was one of the first online companies to start collecting sales tax in Florida five years ago.
Now, Florida lawmakers want Amazon’s competitors to catch up.
A potential Senate tax package (Senate Bill 1112) would require nearly all online retailers start collecting Florida sales taxes, netting the state roughly $700 million in revenue it currently doesn’t collect.
But much of the money would be given away by other tax breaks.
Currently, Floridians who buy products from sites like Wayfair, Etsy and Amazon’s third-party sellers usually don’t pay Florida’s 6 percent sales tax. Instead, Floridians are supposed to pay the sales tax directly to the state, which they usually don’t do.
“We’re making our average, everyday citizens guilty of not paying their taxes,” Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who is sponsoring the bill, said Tuesday, before it passed its second committee.
Requiring nearly all online retailers collect the tax would fix the problem. But Gruters, who is also chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, is careful not to call it a tax increase.
“Some people say this is a tax increase,” he told fellow senators on Tuesday. “It’s not. It’s a tax that’s currently owed.”
The idea is in response to a Supreme Court ruling last year that threw out the idea that a company had to have a physical presence in a state before the state could require it to collect sales taxes.
It would net an estimated $700 million for the state, according to Gruters. Online companies that sell at least 200 items or $100,000 worth of items in Florida would have to collect the tax.
But under Gruters’ bill, much of the money would be given away through a slew of tax cuts, including:
Cutting the tax on rent for commercial properties from 5.7 percent to 3.5 percent, eliminating the ad valorem tax on heavy equipment rented by a dealer, creating a 14-day sales tax holiday for disaster preparedness supplies, and providing a tax cut to insurers that cover remote visits with doctors, known as “telehealth."
Just how much of the $700 million would make it into state and local coffers is unclear, though. The bill still has another committee stop to go before making it to the Senate floor.
“This is probably one of the most important bills of this session,” Gruters said. “I hope we can be the voice of reason and pass this bill.”
By Lawrence Mower
Over the past several years, Florida’s retailers have faced remarkable challenges as they navigate through a fast-changing world.
Through it all, the retail industry has shown great resiliency and has asked for little more than a level playing field.
Unfortunately, as e-commerce boomed, a glaring disparity positioned our members and other Florida retailers at a significant disadvantage to online and out-of-state competitors.
Our state now has the opportunity to eliminate a legal loophole that will ensure fair competition and support Florida-based businesses, jobs and communities.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair reversed a decades-old decision permitting out-of-state retailers to evade the collection of sales taxes when shipping goods into states where the retailer had no presence. READ COMPLETE OP ED at floridapolitics.com
R. Scott Shalley is the President & CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.
ORMOND BEACH — When Lara Yancey looks around the room at Yancey Music Center, she sees more than guitars, pianos, drums and band instruments.
Each corner of the family-owned business also sparks a memory of countless customers introduced to the finer points of music over a 26-year span that ends when the business closes its doors for the final time on Saturday, bowing to increasing competition from online and big-box retailers.
“We’ve definitely seen generations of customers learning about music in the store,” said Lara, 35, who helps run the family-owned business with her mother, Ginny Yancey. “We’ve definitely seen kids grow up and bring their kids into the store and teach them to love music.”
Together, with the help of other family members and employees, the Yanceys have kept the small, independently owned music store running for 10 years at the Ormond Oaks shopping plaza on South Yonge Street since its founder and patriarch, David Yancey, died at age 56 in 2009 following a battle with cancer. On Friday, loyal customers perused dwindling supplies of accessories, instruments and music books in the store’s final hours.
Eventually, the challenge of competing in a landscape increasingly dominated by online retailers and big box chain stores became insurmountable, Lara said. READ FULL ARTICLE
By Jim Abbott
According the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), General Mills announced today a voluntary national recall of five-pound bags of its Gold Medal Unbleached Flour with a better if used by date of April 20, 2020. The recall is being issued for the potential presence of Salmonella which was discovered during sampling of the five-pound bag product. This recall is being issued out of an abundance of care as General Mills has not received any direct consumer reports of confirmed illnesses related to this product.
This recall only affects this one date code of Gold Medal Unbleached Flour five-pound bags. All other types of Gold Medal Flour are not affected by this recall.
Due to the spread of incorrect information regarding the early release of February SNAP benefits, the USDA Food Nutrition Services (FSN) is has issued the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Please feel free to distribute or post in your retail locations. Copies of the FAQs in English, Spanish and Creole can be found in the links below.
When will I get my January benefits?
Your January benefits will be available on your regularly scheduled monthly date. These benefits have not changed due to the government shutdown and will be received on your normal day.
When will I get my February benefits?
February benefits for most people will be available on January 20th. These benefits are your February allotment and you will need to adjust accordingly due to the early release of the benefits.
What happens if my application or eligibility review is approved on or after January 16th?
Your application will be processed, and January benefits will be available the following day. February benefits will be available on your regularly scheduled monthly date.
When will I get my March benefits?
In the event March food assistance (SNAP) benefits are affected by the partial US government shutdown, DCF will immediately notify customers through social media, posters, websites, and other communication outlets.
Will the current benefits on my EBT card still be available after January 31st?
Yes, benefits already deposited on your EBT card will be available. Customers should budget the early release of February benefits accordingly throughout the month.
What retailers will be available to accept my EBT card?
Authorized EBT retailers are available to accept EBT benefits for food. There is a list of current EBT retailers in the state of Florida located here: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailerlocator.
Will Temporary Cash Assistance and Medicaid customers be affected?
The Medicaid Program is funded through 2019 so the shutdown does not impact Medicaid customers. Temporary Cash Assistance benefits are available at least through the month of February.
Where can I go if I need food right away?
If you are having difficulty meeting the food needs for your household, please reach out to community partners and food banks in your area to find out how you can receive assistance. For more information about the location of your regional food banks, visit https://www.feedingflorida.org/taking-action/find-food-now/ and look for the nearest food distribution site.
FRF is predicting a very bright sales season for Florida retailers and expecting holiday sales to increase 4.5 percent over 2017. This is due to numerous positive statewide economic indicators including the lowest unemployment rate in more than a decade, strong consumer confidence, record-breaking tourism and more shoppers with more money to spend.
“The holiday shopping season is vital to the success of just about every Florida retailer, and thanks to an extremely strong state economy and more people with jobs, and therefore more money to spend, we expect it to be a big success for our more than 270,000 retail establishments,” said FRF President/CEO Scott Shalley. “It’s a great time to hit the stores and shop for your family and friends, as retailers will face stiff competition for your business, which means great deals and opportunities for consumers.”
Consumers are expected to spend a record $1,007.24 on gifts this holiday season, up considerably over 2017’s total of $967, which was the previous record. Shoppers will spend in three main categories during the holidays:
Top 5 categories for items being purchased:
The most popular toys this holiday season include:
For more information on FRF’s Holiday Shopping Forecast, click here.
The Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) just released the list of eligible items for the 2018 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. This sales tax holiday begins Friday, August 3, 2018, and runs through Sunday, August 5, 2018. During this period, qualifying items will be exempt from tax including: certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item; and clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $60 or less per item.
For more information and a list of qualifying items, please visit the Department of Revenue's Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday website. There you will find DOR’s Tax Information Publication (TIP), as well as a Frequently Asked Questions document. For your convenience, the Department also created digital downloads and social media posts for businesses interested in sharing information about the sales tax holiday.
by MARTHA C. WHITE
For holiday job-seekers, Christmas is coming early this year. With a national unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, experts are predicting a hot job market for seasonal hiring, and holiday part-timers might score the biggest bonus of all once the seasonal frenzy wraps up: A permanent gig.
“We do see a growing percentage of employers keeping workers on and using holiday hiring as a way to evaluate workers that they then keep on,” said Peter Harrison, CEO of Snagajob.
This has advantages for both employer and employee, said Andy Challenger, vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “For employers, it’s a great way to give people a test run,” he told NBC News. “It’s a three-month interview in some ways,” while workers have a chance to evaluate the benefits, culture and opportunity for advancement afforded to full-time workers.
Better wages, better perks
A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 43 percent of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent workers in the final quarter of 2017, a jump of nine percentage points over last year; nearly three-quarters expect to raise salaries. “The pay is up, and that’s what we’ve really seen,” said CareerBuilder senior career advisor Michael Erwin. “There really is competition to get this talent in.”
Retailers using seasonal hiring as a de facto farm team for their full-time employee base gives workers a boost as employers their best face forward with higher pay, bonuses for everything from employee referrals to hitting sales targets.
“Retailers over the past couple of years have had to develop a tool kit,” said Frank Layo, retail strategist with Kurt Salmon, part of Accenture Strategy.
Layo added that since employers are reluctant to raise pay if they can woo workers with non-monetary perks, seasonal retail employees might see a host of other, smaller perks like giveaways or “friends and family” discounts. “If somebody feels like they’re a part of the brand, they’re included and management respects them… the people who can do that without wage increases are in the catbird seat,” he said.
But for many retailers, the reality is that they need to boost wages to shore up their seasonal staff.
“One area where we’ve seen wages continue to rise is for front line workers like store managers and cashiers,” said MaryJo Fitzgerald, career trends analyst at Glassdoor. “We’re also seeing wages rise for truck driver and warehouse associates… which indicates a demand in the market.”
This demand has increased to the extent that some retail brands are even offering part-time workers benefits, Erwin said.
“You will see employers competing — they’re going to be going out and promoting the benefits of working for them, [and] benefits on top of pay are going to attract a higher quality” of candidates, he said.
“Overall, you see employers using perks more, whether it’s more flexible schedules, food at work, or sick days and vacation time,” Harrison said. “An interesting uptick is the number of workers who are looking for benefits within the last 12 months,” he added, an indication that robust demand for workers could finally be putting job-seekers back in the driver’s seat.
Half a million new workers
Challenger, Gray & Christmas’s annual Holiday Hiring Outlook found that last year, seasonal retail employment increased by 641,000 during the final three months of the year, nearly 10 percent lower than in 2015.
This year, those numbers are expected to tick up slightly, Challenger said, while the fact that these numbers aren’t higher reflects longer-trend labor market strength. “So much hiring is going on during the rest of the year,” he said.
The National Retail Federation reports similar findings: The trade group predicted that retailers will hire between 500,000 and 550,000 seasonal holiday workers this year, compared to 575,000 last year.
But while hiring might have slowed down, what has accelerated is retailers’ time frame. Employers are starting earlier this year for two reasons, experts say: The “Christmas creep” that has retailers competing for consumers’ holiday dollars has shifted to earlier in the calendar year.
“Companies realized this year people were going to be spending more money and start earlier,” Erwin said. “You used to ramp up for Black Friday, but Black Friday is starting now.”
And the changing nature of the skills retailers need today has intensified the pressure employers are already experiencing from a tighter job market. As traditional retailers invest more in their e-commerce operations, fewer of the jobs they need to fill are in their brick-and-mortar stores. Instead, hiring managers are focused on filling positions in its warehouses and shipping facilities.
“That’s the primary driver of growth for most retailers at this point. Even if it’s not the lion’s share of their profit, it’s the growth vehicle,” Layo said.
“There’s still going to be a spike in temporary hires needed in stores,” Challenger said, but added that more job-seekers might find themselves driving a forklift than manning a cash register. “The number is probably going to be down in-store because the entire industry’s going through such a major transition,” he said, with home delivery and ship-to-store key areas of retail brands’ investment. “Retailers are cutting brick and mortar jobs, and they’re hiring in the back.”
The upshot is that while many people tend to think of retail jobs as stopgap, part-time or pre-career employment, that’s not the case anymore, Erwin said. Since the growth of e-commerce demands a higher-level skill set and technological proficiency, seasonal workers who excel over the winter holidays could find themselves not just with a job, but a potential career.
“If you don't feel like you're a good fit for a retail position, this might be the way to go,” he said.
BY JENNIFER LIPNER
Accountants classify losses from theft rather euphemistically as part of “inventory shrinkage.” But everyone knows what that usually refers to: lost revenue due to theft.
While the everyday, garden variety shoplifter is a perennial thorn in any merchant’s side, focusing solely on the lone thief diverts attention from a much larger and more pervasive threat to a store’s profitability: organized retail crime. Think of it as shoplifting on steroids.
The uptick in ORC is responsible for the changing statistical landscape of retail inventory shrinkage. According to the 2017 National Retail Security Survey from the National Retail Federation and the University of Florida, the value of merchandise taken in the average shoplifting incident is $798. In 2014 it stood at only $318. The report indicates that shoplifting has exceeded employee theft and is the largest component of overall shrinkage.
Just what makes ORC “organized”? Security experts distinguish between the individual who takes advantage of an inattentive sales clerk and the ringleader of a group engaged in large-scale theft that traffics in stolen goods. There are different models of ORC, a few of which were described recently during a webinar presented by Protection One, a division of ADT security, which used actual cases to illustrate its points.
One concept resembles a pyramid. Detective Miguel Garcia of the Miami Dade Police Department describes the first rung as “boosters.”
“Boosters are individuals or a group of people that go out, target and steal consumer goods — clothing, over the counter medications, perfume and the like — and ‘fence off’ [hand off the goods to their boss]to a secure location and make money,” Garcia says. On a good day, boosters might steal between $700 to $1,200 worth of goods.
The boosters are paid by the “fencers,” who then sell the goods to the next-level fence, who in turn sells them to yet another fence — or to ordinary (often unsuspecting) retail establishments. At each level, a markup is applied, which generates significant income for those involved. Some fences may have more than one network of boosters working underneath them.
Garcia cites a recent case in south Florida when a theft ring was busted and some $15 million in stolen medication confiscated. The investigation began when a woman was apprehended stealing diabetic test strips from a local pharmacy.
After agreeing to become a confidential informant, the woman introduced her fence to an undercover officer, which ultimately led to arrests that brought down the entire operation. Code-named “Operation OTC,” the investigation uncovered a sophisticated network, involving people from across Florida.
Sergeant Leopoldo Fuentes, a colleague of Garcia’s, strongly emphasizes the necessity of retailers and law enforcement working together to thwart ORC.
“Without industry support, we would have been unable to conduct the investigation,” Fuentes says. “A lot of the information we needed came from store loss prevention people.”
When ORC traffics in higher ticket items, the potential ramifications can be far more impactful — and may even affect public safety. “ORC relative to the jewelry industry, due to the price points we deal in, often involves other criminal activities such as money laundering, drug cartels, the funding of terrorism and various underworld dealings,” says Mark Neapolitan, senior director of loss prevention at Signet Jewelers.
Elaborate counter measures are necessary to combat this level of sophistication. Signet’s loss prevention department has 24 managers, each of whom oversees security for some 130 locations. Signet is one of the largest retailers of fine jewelry, operating over 3,300 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico under several familiar names including Kay Jewelers and Jared-The Galleria of Jewelry. The company’s LP staff performs a wide range of security-related activities, including offering seminars in jewelry identification and jewelry investigation to law enforcement.
Neapolitan points out techniques used by jewelry thieves, some of which are similar to other types of retail fraud, while others are specific to jewelry; they include grab and run, burglary, distraction theft and credit fraud. Internal theft can also occur at jewelry repair locations or in the store.
An especially noteworthy case involved a series of armed robberies that occurred from January 2015 until June 2016 at Signet locations throughout the South. Early on, the female suspect targeted was dubbed the “diamond diva,” and was thought to be part of a criminal cell.
After the first few incidents, analysis performed by Signet LP staff and the FBI detected several patterns. In each case, the suspect entered the store when only female employees were on duty and no customers were present. After asking to see some merchandise, the offender produced a handgun, ordered the employees to the back and bound them. She then took their showcase keys and stole several pieces of merchandise.
During each incident she wore a wide-brimmed hat to obscure her face; only her manner of dress varied from instance to instance.
However, advanced video technology made it possible to see outside the store and determine the color and make of the getaway vehicle. Rapid dissemination of this information was made possible by effective coordination with law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels, and also through the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, a trade organization that shares security related information throughout the industry.
Eventually a robbery occurred in which the suspect’s face was exposed. The video was immediately pulled and shared among all parties. National TV networks broadcast it, and within one week arrests were made of the suspect and her cohorts.
“It’s a misnomer in loss prevention to feel that information cannot or should not be shared. This hurts you, it doesn’t help you,” Neapolitan says. “The more sharing there is between parties, the greater the amount of new information that can be generated.” ORC makes this is especially crucial, since cells often operate over several states and jurisdictions.
This level of coordination was instrumental in busting a much larger cell operating out of Detroit. Known as the Red Wing Gang, it consisted of close to 100 members committing “smash and grabs” from New York to Wisconsin during 2015 and 2016. The mutual sharing of intelligence was instrumental in 26 arrests, with the potential of more in the future.
Security experts say that ORC is spreading to other product areas. This growing problem underscores the importance of security people from this branch of retail to consider a more coordinated, multifaceted approach to loss prevention.
In addition to the jewelers’ alliance, the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, formed in 2008, promotes the formation of partnerships between merchants and law enforcement agencies. The coalition claims a number of high profile members, including Target, CVS and Under Armour. read more
With Hurricane Irma approaching our State, the Florida Retail Federation and our merchant program Florida Bankcard Solutions would like to take a moment to remind you of some recommendations to help protect your merchant processing account.
IN ADVANCE OF THE STORM:
AFTER THE STORM:
As always, please call us with any questions or assistance you need. If you are processing credit card transactions with Florida Bankcard Solutions, the customer service number is 800-563-5981 option 2.
Most important, please be safe during this storm as it approaches the state and stay tuned for updates from the Florida Retail Federation as we have staff in place at the State of Florida’s Emergency Operations Center.