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R. Scott Shalley: Let us compete

The retail environment has evolved and so must the laws that govern it.

Over the past several years, Florida’s retailers have faced remarkable challenges as they navigate through a fast-changing world.

Through it all, the retail industry has shown great resiliency and has asked for little more than a level playing field.

Unfortunately, as e-commerce boomed, a glaring disparity positioned our members and other Florida retailers at a significant disadvantage to online and out-of-state competitors.

Our state now has the opportunity to eliminate a legal loophole that will ensure fair competition and support Florida-based businesses, jobs and communities.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair reversed a decades-old decision permitting out-of-state retailers to evade the collection of sales taxes when shipping goods into states where the retailer had no presence.

Upon this reversal, most states immediately amended their sales tax rules which subsequently forced out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes. Florida is now the largest state that has failed to make this modification.

As a result, our members are burdened with a 6-8 percent tax that out-of-state retailers do not collect and have thus far been hindered by a loss in sales which affects all areas of their company, from expansion to employee compensation.

Even more disturbing, these out-of-state retailers offer nothing by way of support toward our state infrastructure.

The U.S. Supreme Court passed the responsibility directly on states to enact laws correcting this disparity and our leaders in the state Capitol should waste no time in ending this unfair and unwise practice.

More than 40 states have already adopted legislation or regulations requiring remote sellers to collect and pay sales taxes, including all our southern neighbors. We must do the same.

Florida law already addresses remote sales … this is not a new tax. These taxes have always been due, but the duty falls on the consumer, who is largely unaware of the obligation and rarely reports it.

This is about modernizing our tax code, streamlining our system, and bolstering our position as one of the most business-friendly states in the country.

The importance of closing this loophole cannot be underemphasized. The retail environment has evolved and so must the laws that govern it.

Florida should be a place where free markets reign and businesses thrive. Implementing e-fairness would be a giant step toward creating that reality.

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R. Scott Shalley is the President & CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

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