Each year, the IRS and states alike, estimate the difference between taxes owed and taxes collected. This difference, known as the “tax gap,” has been steadily growing at both the federal and state level over the past several years. For example, the IRS estimates that the federal “tax gap” is about $385 billion. While it sounds like a large number, the IRS is able to boast about an 86% compliance rate. On the state side, similar problems exists. For instance, large states, such as California have a “tax gap” of about $10 billion. In response, the states are launching large and expensive “campaigns” in order to attempt to narrow the tax gap and generate revenue. Small businesses will undoubtedly feel the crack-down of the compliance efforts across the country.

Many states have leveraged technology to begin new automated collection systems. In Read More

In 2012, an important case in favor of tobacco distributors was decided by a Florida appellate court. Technical tax issues aside, Micjo taught us that if a taxpayer does not agree with a department’s tax decision, then it should fight for its money that is not due. Since the Micjo ruling, many other tobacco distributors have been filing refunds and fighting tax assessments based on the appellate case. After filing several Micjo refund cases, we discovered another pro-tobacco distributor case was decided in Oregon that could take Micjo a step further. Logically, the case should apply to Florida and other states’ tobacco taxing laws. If correct, then tobacco distributors may be entitled to large refund claims.

Taking a step back, Micjo was decided in 2012 and it discussed the correct taxable base Read More

For the last three years, our firm has been relentless writing and warning any business that sells beer, liquor, and/or cigarettes, that the Florida Department of Revenue was coming. The onslaught of the industry all stemmed from a law change in 2011. With little support, a new law went into effect in Florida that required all wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors of alcohol and tobacco to provide annual sales information the Florida DOR. Shockingly, some ABT retailers were purchasing multiples of gross sales of alcohol and tobacco alone. For example, the average Florida C-store purchased about $50,000 a month in ABT items alone but only reported gross sales of $20,000 for sales tax purposes. As predicted, we were told that approximately 200 audit notices were going out every three months (DR-846 – “desk audits” & DR-840 – “full audit notices”) and each of Read More

This month, May 2014, Amazon was welcomed with open arms to the sunshine state. Florida should be happy by its theoretical increase as Amazon will begin charging, collecting and remitting tax in Florida. Sparking the collection agreement was the fact that Amazon has built two large distribution centers in Florida, which gives it the fatal sales tax nexus. For customers, this means that they will be charged the 6% state sales tax rate plus the local sales surtax rate, which can run between 0% and 1.5%.

As stated above, Amazon is building two fulfillment centers in Florida, creating more than 3,000 jobs. The locations will be on Florida’s west coast. Specifically, the centers will be just outside of Lakeland (East of Tampa and South of Orlando) and Ruskin (South East side of Hillsborough County). The project should also be a boom for the local economy and allow all Read More

It is difficult these days to read an article about sales tax without coming across issues with online companies such as Amazon. For those of you that do not spend most of your day hunting down interesting sales tax articles, please just take my word for it. In fact, before Congress right now is an attempt to nationalize sales tax collection by passing a law known as the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). This law would essentially cause most online retailers, like Amazon, to collect tax in every jurisdiction to which they sell. Not surprisingly, and despite the literally thousands of articles discussing the MFA and online sales tax collection, most consumers and many commentators still are not understanding how a sales tax works.

By way of background and for review for many of you, a sales and use tax work Read More

Our firm receives questions on a regular basis from taxpayers and their CPA’s alike regarding businesses that provide both services and tangible personal property. In most states, tangible personal property is subject to sales tax while the sales of services is not. Alternatively, a similar question comes in with real property improvement contractors that sell some tangible personal property, some installation, and some real property contracts with installation. The question is even more pressing in the case in which the taxpayer is a real property improvement company that has significant sales to tax-exempt or governmental entities. The issue remains the same, how does the taxpayer exempt the service or minimize the sales tax ramifications in their business?

In this simple example, consider an interior design company. In most states the sale of Read More

In mid-January 2014, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal discussing shopping trends over the holiday season. According to the Journal’s article, As Shoppers Skip the Mall, Stores Search for Fresh Lures, the shift to online shopping and away from the traditional brick-and-mortar was heavily price driven. Of course, other factors contributed such as convenience of shopping online and having a more defined mission when going to the store due to online research. However, the article suggested a “permanent” shift away from store showrooms and more to that of an online marketplace. Is it possible that a perceived sales tax savings is also contributing?

Irrespective of the rationale, the results of this year’s shopping trends analysis was staggering. Courtesy of ShopperTrak, a data firm, stores can monitor foot traffic by the use Read More

Most Florida tobacco distributors are familiar with Micjo which was decided on February 1, 2012. Micjo would change the alcohol and beverage tax world in Florida forever. At issue was whether the taxpayer had to pay Florida tobacco tax on all of the invoice components, including shipping charges and federal excise tax or if the tax should only apply to the tobacco product itself, not the federal excise tax and transportation charges. For example, Micjo (or any tobacco distributor) gets an invoice from its supplier that says tobacco $100, federal excise tax $60, transportation charges $40, total invoice $200. Should the tobacco tax apply to the $200 or the $100? Of course, Florida’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (“AB&T”) believed it was the $200 and Micjo believed it was the $100. Read More

As many people know, Amazon has been clashing with many states whether it should be required to charge, collect, and remit sales tax. Many states have taken the position that Amazon’s affiliates and distribution centers created the dreaded “nexus.” If an online retailer (or any company) has so-called “nexus” it is required to charge, collect, and remit tax in that state. With millions of dollars at stake, Amazon threatened to pull its affiliate programs in those states which, in turn, would cut tens of thousands of jobs. Fearful of huge job cuts in a struggling economy, many states allowed Amazon a grace period, permitting the company to continue its program and not collect sales tax for x number of years in the future. Once the grace period expired, then Amazon would have to charge, collect, and remit tax. In return, the state would keep its jobs as well as get more tax Read More

Amazon has implemented an interesting sales and use tax strategy over the past few years. The battle between the online juggernaut can be best exemplified in California. California attempted to force Amazon to collect California sales and use tax in 2011. Amazon called California’s ultimatum by threatening to pull any ties with California which would cost thousands of jobs. On second thought, California agreed to not force Amazon to collect sales and use tax until September 2012 in exchange for a promise by Amazon to open numerous distribution facilities, which would increase job opportunities in the state.

Putting personal feelings and constitutional implications aside, the move makes sense from both sides. California has the highest statewide sales tax rate of about 7.5%, Read More

Colorado clearly does not stick to the trends. Whether it is legalizing marijuana or attempting to get Northern Colorado to become the 51st state, Colorado has been all over the news during the past year. Recently, the state had on its ballot an interesting tax that stayed in line with Colorado’s unusual politics. Specifically, on November 5, 2013, Colorado voters passed the pot tax.

On its face, the tax appears to operate similar to somewhat steep excise tax. It appears that recreational marijuana sales will be subject to a 25% tax which goes into effect on January 1, 2014. Of the 25%, 15% will be allocated to public school construction projects and 10% will go to funding enforcement regulation on the retail pot sales. This excise tax, which is similar to tobacco and cigarette taxes, is in addition to 2.9% sales tax at the retail level. Read More

iStock_000003587174XSmallI have been writing ad nauseum for the past few years on the Online Travel Company (“OTC”) debate. Being that my home state of Florida relies so heavily on the tourism industry, this has been a pressing issue for some time. It was reported this week by the Washington Post and BNA Tax that the debate has drawn national attention. Specifically, an influential task force known as the National Conference of State Legislatures (“NCSL”) examined the issue in an attempt to achieve national uniformity.

For those of you who have not been following the debate, the issue can most easily be explained by using a simple example. Consider you are going on a vacation and you find a room at a hotel, using Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity, for $100 online. Mechanically, how this Read More