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Dereliction of "Duties:" Web Shoppers Find Sales Tax Loophole?

By: Mike Vasilinda
By: Mike Vasilinda

Online shopping is growing by leaps and bounds. What most people don't know is that online purchases are subject to the state sales tax, as if the money changed hands in a store. If the online retailer doesn't collect the tax, then purchasers are supposed to fill out this form and send the money in.

Bill Herrle with the Florida Retail Federation says, "All Florida shoppers should be familiar with it if they buy a product and have it shipped to Florida for their use, they’re responsible for paying the sales tax."

But when we asked the on-liners at a wireless cafe if they knew about the form and the requirement to the pay tax, we got puzzled looks.

Jovita Bakker, a graduate student, said, "No, I didn’t know about it at all. Am I gonna get arrested?"

The answer is no.

The online police don't exist yet, so unless your conscience bothers you, not filling out the form and paying the tax won't land you in jail.

There are 17 million people in Florida, yet just 2,000 forms were filed last year. One estimate has the state losing as much as $1 billion a year.

Florida retailers hope the state will join a coalition of states collecting Internet sales tax for each other, but so far state lawmakers want to leave the Internet alone.

Not all online sales avoid paying Florida sales tax. Online sites for national retailers that have a store in Florida collect the sales tax and pay it like the purchase took place in a store.


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