You’ll pay more for online purchases under legislation quietly signed by Gov. DeSantis

By: - April 20, 2021 11:54 am

Consumer savings from new sales-tax holidays will be dwarfed by price increases caused by new taxes on online sales. Credit: Getty Images

If you shop online, expect to pay sales taxes soon in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis quietly signed a law late Monday night that means Florida consumers will pay around $1 billion in online sales taxes per year.

The new law (SB 50) takes effect July 1.

The good news is that you no longer will be responsible for calculating the taxes yourself and sending the money to the Florida Department of Revenue. That obligation has been in place for years, but most consumers didn’t understand that they were liable — not to mention that they also were subject to audits and potential penalties for nonpayment.

Under the new law, that burden will shift to retailers who are long accustomed to collecting the sales taxes for other states. That means you’ll pay more for those sneakers you buy online.

The governor’s office announced via email at 11:22 p.m. that he had signed the bill — in sharp contrast to the hoopla attending his signing of his anti-protest bill earlier in the day, when DeSantis was flanked by Republican Cabinet members, legislative leaders, and a throng of law enforcement leaders during a public ceremony.

“Minutes before midnight, @GovRonDeSantis signed a bill into law which raises your taxes by a billion dollars,” Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried tweeted.

“I don’t think he wanted anyone to notice!,” Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orange County suggested on her Twitter feed.

Much of the legislative debate centered on whether the bill amounted to a tax increase. Even some Republicans felt that it did, but House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson insisted it did not — that is merely streamlines collections of taxes already owed.

Most Democrats in the House and Senate objected less to the tax itself than to what the Legislature voted to spend the money on: a big break for businesses on their assessment to Florida’s unemployment benefits trust fund, which was wildly depleted by soaring joblessness during the COVID pandemic.

Businesses faced assessment increase of 700 percent or more, sponsors of the provision argued in floor debate in the House. Now that the governor has signed the bill, they’re entitled to rebates of any contributions since Jan. 1.

The same bill cuts the sales tax businesses pay to rent commercial space from 5.5 percent to 2 percent.

Regarding the unemployment system, pending legislation would raise Florida’s weekly benefit — among the nation’s stingiest — by $100, to a total $375 while extending the benefits period. DeSantis has come out against the increase, but its Republican sponsors say they hope to change his mind.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.