Florida Senate seeks to collect tax from out-of-state sales

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Out-of-state retailers would have to collect the Florida sales tax when they ship items to the state, under a bill passed by the Senate on Thursday.

The state would lose close to $1 billion in revenue in the next fiscal year and $1.8 billion in future years because sales tax isn't collected on many online and remote purchases, said Republican Sen. Joe Gruters, who sponsored the bill.

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Gruters said by law, consumers are supposed to pay the online taxes on their own if they aren't charged it, but it's an afterthought for most Floridians.

“I would never be in favor of a (new) tax. This is a tax that's been owed for 20 years. Longer than that,” Gruters said.

The Senate voted 30-10 in favor of the bill, but some Democrats who previously supported the idea voted “no” because of an amendment that would require $1 billion be transferred to the state's unemployment trust fund, which would lower unemployment taxes for businesses. Democrats argued that the money should instead be used to raise unemployment benefits.

A similar measure in the House has one more committee stop before reaching the full chamber.