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Charlie Crist misleads on Ron DeSantis' record on taxes
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DeSantis signed legislation to revise Florida's online sale tax, which the state estimated would generate about $1 billion annually.
The law did not establish a new tax. Instead, it required remote sellers to collect and remit taxes on items delivered to customers in Florida. Before the legislation, customers were required to remit such taxes to the state - though few did.
DeSantis extended a temporary corporate tax reduction set into motion by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. The state's tax agency told PolitiFact it refunded nearly $624 million to the state's corporate taxpayers this year.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called President Joe Biden's plan to forgive student loan debt an economic burden on "the everyday American." DeSantis' Democratic rival in the governor's race, Charlie Crist, countered in a tweet that DeSantis raised taxes on Floridians in the middle class.
DeSantis raised "taxes on the middle class by more than $1.5 billion while giving away $624 million to big corporations," Crist said in an Aug. 25 tweet.
DeSantis has criticized Democratic-led states like New York for imposing large tax burdens on their residents. So, we wondered whether Crist's portrayal of DeSantis' tax policy was accurate.
PolitiFact found that DeSantis signed a bill to revise Florida's online sales tax in 2021 — but the tax isn't new and didn't target the middle class. Although corporations received a $624 million refund during DeSantis' tenure, there's more context to know than Crist provided.
Crist is talking about a law DeSantis signed in 2021 that changed how the state collects sales taxes on online transactions.
The law, SB 50, requires online marketplaces with no physical presence in Florida to collect and remit sales tax on items delivered to customers in the state. The state estimated it would generate about $1 billion a year. (The state's revenue department did not confirm the amount it collected when we asked about Crist's $1.5 billion claim.)
Florida already had a 6% sales and use tax on goods. Before SB 50, customers were expected to contact the state's Department of Revenue and pay the tax owed on their purchases from remote sellers.
But compliance was "notoriously low," a legislative staff analysis found. Florida changed the law after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling eliminated the requirement that sellers have physical presence in a state to collect and remit taxes to that state.
Experts told PolitiFact that SB 50 didn't create a new tax but shifted the responsibility to remit sales tax from consumers to the remote seller.
"The ability to require a broader range of sellers to collect at point-of-sale increases collections, but it is an enforcement action, not a new tax," said Jared Walczak, a researcher at the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based research group.
The Tax Foundation neither endorsed nor opposed the legislation in 2021 but noted that the revision held merit and that more than 40 states have enacted similar legislation "on a broad bipartisan basis."
Although Florida consumers are paying taxes on some purchases they previously hadn't paid them on, we found no evidence to support Crist's claim that the law targeted the middle class.
"People of all income classes make online purchases," Walczak said. "Nothing about increasing enforcement of the already existing sales and use tax targets a particular income bracket."
Crist's campaign cited HB 7127 — legislation DeSantis signed in 2019 that extended a temporary corporate tax reduction set into motion by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2018.
Scott signed the initial tax refund to offset changes brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which expanded the definition of corporate income while reducing federal corporate tax rates.
That act resulted in more taxable income for Florida corporate income taxpayers and would have increased corporations' state tax liabilities. The 2018 bill lowered the corporate tax rate, which triggered an automatic refund for eligible corporate taxpayers.
DeSantis allowed the downward adjustment of corporate tax rates to continue for another two years. In spring 2020, he snubbed calls from Democratic lawmakers to cancel the tax refund.
A Florida Department of Revenue spokesperson told PolitiFact it refunded nearly $624 million to the state's corporate taxpayers this year.
The refunds benefited more than 21,000 corporate taxpayers, the spokesperson said.
Crist said DeSantis raised "taxes on the middle class by more than $1.5 billion" and gave $624 million to "big corporations."
That's misleading. Although DeSantis signed legislation to revise Florida's online sale tax — which the state estimated would generate around $1 billion annually — the law neither established a new tax nor targeted only the middle class.
Crist had more of a point when considering the amount of money Florida refunded to large corporations. The Florida Department of Revenue told PolitiFact it refunded nearly $624 million to the state's corporate taxpayers this year.
In 2019, DeSantis signed legislation that extended a provision — signed by former Gov. Rick Scott — that temporarily reduced corporate income tax rates. The refunds benefited more than 20,000 corporate taxpayers, according to the state Department of Revenue.
Crist's statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
Email interview with Bethany Wester, spokesperson for Florida Department of Revenue, Sept. 1, 2022
Email interview with Jared Walczak, a researcher at the Tax Foundation, Aug. 30, 2022
Email interview with Christina Johnson, spokesperson for Florida TaxWatch, Sept. 1, 2022
PolitiFact, Nikki Fried's attack on Ron DeSantis about taxes, June 15, 2021
Florida Senate, Senate Bill 50, assessed Aug. 30, 2022
Florida Senate, Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement, assessed Aug. 30, 2022
Florida Senate, House Bill 7127, assessed Aug. 30, 2022
Florida Senate, House Bill 7093, assessed Aug. 30, 2022
Tax Foundation, South Dakota v. Wayfair, assessed Aug. 30, 2022
Congress.gov, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, assessed Aug. 30, 2022
Tallahassee Democrat, Florida's corporations set to pocket $543.2 million tax refund, March 30, 2021
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Charlie Crist misleads on Ron DeSantis' record on taxes
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