TALLAHASSEE -- Internet giant Amazon.com will start to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Floridians starting May 1.
For Floridians who are supposed to pay the taxes but haven’t, the announcement of Amazon’s entry into the state’s brick-and-mortar retail landscape could mean about $80 million a year in sales taxes, according to one business lobbying group.
Ty Rogers, a spokesman for the Seattle-based retailer, responded simply in an email on Wednesday that “Amazon will be required to collect sales tax in Florida beginning on May 1.”
The announcement isn’t unexpected as the company is building a pair of massive “fulfillment” centers along the Interstate 4 corridor.
John Fleming, a spokesman for the Florida Retail Federation, said the announcement is probably a sign that Amazon will soon trigger a collection requirement by starting to hire for the year-end holidays, which for retailers begins in September.
“They’re going to have to have employees ready by then,” Fleming said.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday that Amazon intends to open its new 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse in southeastern Hillsborough County by the end of the year.
The company also is upping its hiring projections for the facility from 1,100 to about 2,500 — including seasonal hires, according to the Times. The Amazon announcement won’t end the drive by some groups to eliminate an exemption that has allowed out-of-state online retailers to avoid collecting the taxes.
The Florida Department of Revenue requires online companies to begin collecting sales taxes once a company has a physical presence in the state. That has allowed many out-of-state online retailers, including Amazon, to avoid adding the taxes to online purchases. Floridians are supposed to pay the taxes themselves when they buy from online retailers, but few do.
The Florida Retail Federation, which estimates the state will collect $80 million a year from Amazon sales, has been pushing for years to get Florida to impose what the group calls “e-Fairness” tax laws and Congress to approve what is known as the Marketplace Fairness Act.
Fleming said the current focus leans toward Congress taking action, as the federal act would give states the authority to require online and catalog retailers — regardless of where they are — to collect sales taxes at the time of transactions.
Besides, state lawmakers, reluctant to impose new taxes, haven’t shown much interest in e-Fairness efforts despite the lobbying efforts of Florida-based business and retail groups.
Eight bills on the issue died during the 2013 state legislative session, including one that would have offset the additional revenue collected by lowering other taxes.
This year there has been less interest in Tallahassee for e-Fairness. State economist Amy Baker said an estimated impact of Amazon’s tax collections on Florida’s revenue could be ready this summer. The company was not included in a March forecast by the state Revenue Estimating Committee.
“We discussed it, but felt there was still too much uncertainty — particularly in regard to timing — to make the inclusion at that time,” Baker said in an email.