TAMPA - You may soon be paying state and local sales tax on internet purchases, just like you do at the corner store. Lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. are trying to recover billions in sales taxes that go uncollected each year.
Outspokin Bicycles of Clearwater recently opened a spacious and sharply decorated new showroom in South Tampa. They sell and repair the latest bike models, but a broken law forces them to add seven percent in sales tax to every sale, something out-of-state internet vendors don't have to collect.
"If you're buying the same product (online), it should be the same as for a brick-and-mortar store," complained manager JP Navarro.
With that built-in disadvantage, stores like Outspokin Bicycles compete on the basis of service, but often they can't do much to prevent so-called 'show rooming.' That's where customers come in to see and touch the merchandise, then go home to order it online. The practice is blamed for the demise of even big chains like Borders Books and Circuit City.
"It's really hurt jobs in Florida. It's going to get worse as online shopping increases," says Kurt Wenner of Florida TaxWatch. The normally anti-tax watchdog group is in favor of taxing internet sales, as long as it's revenue neutral.
The bills working their way through the State Senate would reduce the taxes on your cell phone bill. The House version would expand the tax-free shopping holidays.
By one estimate, Florida could collect $450 million per year through internet sales.
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