All you eBay sellers, Craisglisters and those who play tax games by buying elsewhere and shipping to Florida to try to skip out on sales taxes -- your chance to fess up has arrived.
Amnesty for state taxes starts July 1.
From Thursday through Sept. 30, Florida is offering consumers and businesses a one-time chance to pay delinquent sales and use taxes, corporate income tax and a variety of other levies, according to the Florida Department of Revenue’s web site.
The benefits for those who pay up now: No penalty and no criminal prosecution, a 2010 state law says. You’ll also get a break on up to half the interest due.
Accountants are holding the doors open for non-taxpayers who need some help figuring out what they owe and to file returns to straighten out the situation.
“Florida did this back in 2003 and it was wildly successful,” said Carl Howden, a certified public accountant and partner in the Fort Lauderdale offices of MarcumRachlin. Howden says he's bracing for a rush of business. “Lots of clients don't necessarily know all of the rules,” he said.
The state has a list of examples of “overlooked” taxes that Floridians might have missed. Even those who are facing a state tax audit, Howden said, may have the chance to end that by taking part in the amnesty program this summer.
One big exception: Unemployment taxes. Businesses cannot get a break on those.
For consumers, Howden points out that if you are selling on eBay or other auction sites, you don't have sales tax issues if you sell your goods to customers in other states.
But, if you sell your goods in Florida, “generally, two sales per year are allowed and on the third sale, you're [considered] a dealer and you need to collect taxes from your Florida customers,” he said.
On the flip side, Floridians who buy from goods other states and don't pay sales taxes or talk the seller into not collecting sales tax – for example, on a piece of art from a gallery in New York or a computer from a seller in California - are subject to use taxes in Florida. Use taxes are assessed at a 6 percent rate.
If you think the state doesn’t know what you bought, you may be mistaken.
Howden says the Department of Revenue checks cargo manifests at ports, airports and truck weigh stations and can send you a notice after the sale demanding the tax.
Fessing up now is something state legislators think will help Florida with its budget crunch.
The last time Florida offered tax amnesty, the state said it expected to collect $100 million, with millions of dollars arriving at state offices, by mail and hand delivery, on the very last day, according to an Associated Press story at the time.
Considering how pressed Florida's state government is for revenue, “I wondered what took them so long,” Howden said.
Anyone interested in filing for the amnesty must sign an “amnesty agreement” which is scheduled to be available for the Florida Department of Revenue’s web site on Thursday at
For a state tax information publication on the amnesty program, go here.
You can read the state tax amnesty law here.
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