Florida senator pushes online sales tax bill for out-of-state companies

Downtown Fort Myers already looks a lot like Christmas. As our shops gear up to share and sell the holiday cheer, so are online retailers. But the holiday shopping dynamic may change with the passage of an online sales tax bill.

“I will probably do most of my holiday online,” said Penny Elmers, who lives in North Fort Myers.

“So convenient,” said Rich Wermuth, who calls Fort Myers home. “It shows up at my doorstep pretty easy.”

State Sen. Joe Gruters (R-23) wants to see things work a little differently next holiday season. Right now, online companies with roots in Florida, like Amazon, need to collect and pay the state a sales tax. But companies without roots in the state do not make you pay tax. Gruters wants to change that. The senator said if the bill, SB 126, becomes law, the state would collect around $700 million in revenue.

“That’s not good,” Gruters said. “We get taxed on everything. This is a little break we’re getting for whatever reason and I’d like to see it stay the same way.”

But the senator and seven other co-sponsoring the bill, said it is only fair to local shops that need to charge the tax. Mollie Turner, who owns The Nest, which is a home goods store in Fort Myers, agrees. She said it is fair “if it’s going to our state.” Dave Spirit works at the Earth Siskin. He said to stay successful nowadays, companies need a “bricks and clicks” presence. Otherwise, it will be “tough to survive.”

But with no sales tax for those online competitors, for now, local businesses look for ways to keep customers coming back to First Street ahead of a busy and competitive holiday shopping season.

“We have unusual things that you can’t find anywhere else,” Turner said. “I think that’s part of the secret.”

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Michael Mora
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