By SCOTT SHALLEY
SPECIAL TO THE SUN SENTINEL
In Florida, the retail industry is one of the foundations of our diverse economy. The industry is made up of 270,000 businesses, and they provide more than 2.7 million jobs for Florida families. This important pillar of our economy is at risk, however. Foreign and out-of-state retailers are capitalizing on our state’s outdated tax laws, and they’re stealing business from Florida retailers.
The Legislature must act now.
Since the rise of the Internet, consumers have gradually moved from shopping in traditional brick-and-mortar stores to finding what they need online. Many Florida retailers — always aiming to meet the needs of their consumers — have expanded their online platforms and services. Consumers can now easily support their favorite Florida stores in person or online.
Unfortunately, Florida’s tax laws have not been modernized as quickly. As a result, foreign and out-of-state businesses are able to avoid collecting and remitting the taxes on purchases made by Florida consumers, leaving the consumer with a cumbersome tax liability.
Florida is one of just two states in the nation that has not fixed this problem. Until we do, Florida retailers will continue to lose out to foreign businesses. And when Florida retailers lose, we all lose.
It’s Florida retailers who provide 2.7 million jobs for Florida families. It’s Florida retailers who contribute more than $155 billion to our economy every year. It’s Florida retailers who support local charities and nonprofits.
As long as we let this scheme continue, Florida retailers will continue to lose ground, cut jobs and reduce employee benefits. And their contributions to our communities will come to a screeching halt.
SB 126, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and HB 159, sponsored by state Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, can fix this problem. This legislation will level the playing field and restore the free market by enforcing the law and requiring all businesses to pay Florida the taxes they owe.
We must ensure that Florida businesses are able to compete locally and globally and are not hindered by outdated regulations in their home state.
We need a level playing field that does not give a leg up to foreign and out-of-state retailers. We need a level playing field in which businesses can fairly compete for customers. We need a level playing field where Florida businesses that offer quality products, excellent customer service and affordable prices will succeed.
Tell your legislators to choose Florida businesses over foreign businesses. Ask them to pass E-Fairness legislation this upcoming session. Let’s restore the free market and level the playing field so Florida businesses can compete — and win in 2020.