A new editorial in the St. Petersburg Times urges Florida lawmakers to adopt the simplified sales tax guidelines of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement and support the federal Main Street Fairness Act.
The whole editorial is worth reading—it’s not long, and it’s cogent, incisive, and well-argued—but we had to quote this section in its entirety:
For years, every major Florida business group has pushed for the state to join the Streamlined group, rightly arguing the outdated tax code discriminates against their members. While any business with a traditional store in Florida must collect the 6 percent state sales tax on goods, out-of-state online-only merchants don’t. That gives them an enormous pricing advantage. Florida TaxWatch has estimated the shift to e-commerce has cost at least 100,000 Florida jobs. And a University of Tennessee study estimates Florida will lose more than $800 million in uncollected sales taxes this year for goods bought through merchants like Amazon.com.
Even Republican-controlled Texas has joined California and New York in championing this cause of tax fairness. Meanwhile, in Tallahassee, favoring out-of-state carpetbaggers over businesses that employ Floridians is far more acceptable. (emphasis added)
We talked in a recent post about how not collecting sales tax online has cost jobs by keeping funds that might pay for new firefighters and police out of city coffers. In Oklahoma City, for instance, the mayor suggested that online sales tax collection could have created 100 to 150 jobs for firefighters and police officers.
The TaxWatch statistic in this St. Petersburg Times editorial refers to another way that e-commerce is costing jobs. Bricks-and-mortar retailers employ far more people than online retailers. In fact, for every person hired at an online retailer, four would have been hired at a bricks-and-mortar retailer.
We need to level the playing field between online and bricks-and-mortar retailers and give bricks-and-mortar retailers a fighting chance to protect retail jobs.
Take a look at the rest of the St. Petersburg Times editorial. It’s worth a read.