Proposed Internet sales tax is bad for Florida college students

Well, they are up to their old tricks again. The politicians of the Florida Legislature want to pound another nail in the coffin of poor and middle class students during this long recession. Once again, they have chosen to go ahead with the ill-conceived idea of eliminating tax-free Internet shopping, within the Sunshine State.

For years, special interests lobbyists in favor of the online sale tax have tried to convince legislators to bring a new sales tax to Florida.

The tax is bad for business and bad for Florida students.

The tax will not affect customers with the resources to pay a tax on internet purchases, but will hit struggling middle-class working stiffs and students who lead busy lives. Most students live on tight budgets, and have extensive shopping lists, often filled with obscure items. They have either no time or no money to pay the retail prices at stores.

It’s strange that the legislature in Florida, which is dominated by Republicans, would entertain inducting a new tax. Florida is not California or New York — states that are dominated by tax-happy politicians willing to tax anything and everything to fill the state treasury.

The effects of an Internet sales tax would be harmful to those who can’t afford market retail prices for things like school books and supplies. The sales tax would especially hit young people and students who are more willing to buy products online.

For students, purchasing textbooks can be as disheartening and shocking as setting money on fire. So, many students use internet sites to purchase class materials. Marketing researchers have found that college student purchase 30 percent of their textbooks from an online source. Students often mention the significantly lower cost of as reason for their switch from the traditional bookstore.

Moreover, it should come as no surprise that the biggest push for Florida to collect  $450 million a year in taxes on Internet shopping comes from a lobbying group called Florida Alliance for Main Street Fairness,  a misnamed organization if there ever was one. The truth is that big corporations — like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and Sears — bankroll these Tallahassee lobbyists to the determent of Florida consumers.

Groups like the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, have major lobbying interest in supporting an online sale tax, although they claim they are not advocating a new tax. They say they care only about leveling the playing field between retail stores and online retailers and that it is not a new tax.

Sorry, lobbyists; taxing retail sales on the net really would be a new tax.

The power that corporations have over our wallets and purses is real. Enacting an online sale tax could have grave consequences to consumers.

The moment for action is now.  Florida retailers think they might have a real shot at convincing Tallahassee lawmakers this year to approve a bill requiring out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes.

It is vital that all Florida students contact their district senator and house representative to tell them to oppose any online sale tax laws. A complete list of legislators can be found at leg.state.fl.us.

It’s time that those lawmakers stop hearing from the lobbyists and corporations and start listening to the people they are supposed to represent. College students in Florida are a powerful voting block, as was evident in the 2008 and 2012 election.  Let’s make our voices heard again and say no to an online sales tax.

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