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Florida Report: Gun Taxes Heard in House Finance & Tax Committee

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Florida Report: Gun Taxes Heard in House Finance & Tax Committee

DATE:  April 1, 2015
TO:       USF & NRA Members and Friends
FROM: Marion P. Hammer
              USF Executive Director
              NRA Past President

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015, the House Finance & Tax Committee held a hearing on the House tax cut package bill  PCB FTC 15-05.

Contained in the Proposed Committee Bill are two provisions for gun owners.

On page 47, Lines 1231-1235 is a provision inserted by Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) to EXPRESSLY PROHIBIT the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) from forcing Gun Clubs to pay sales taxes on club membership dues and fees and to stop DOR from activity that threatens to shut down Gun Club shooting ranges. 

On page 85, line 2194-2208 is a provision inserted by Representative Frank Artiles (R-Miami) and Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) to implement a 4th of July Sales Tax-Free Holiday on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, crossbows, bows, spearguns, camping tents, and fishing supplies.

Anti-gun Committee members Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) and Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) offered amendments to strip out those provisions, and their amendments were overwhelmingly defeated. 

BACKGROUND ON DOR'S UNLAWFUL GUN CLUB TAX

In 2010, we became aware that the Department of Revenue (DOR) had started targeting gun clubs for the collection of sales tax on club membership dues as an admission tax.

The tax is a violation of the firearms preemption law (790.33) which says:

"Except as EXPRESSLY provided by the state Constitution or general law, the Legislature hereby declares that it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition ..."  It could not be more clear.

The Florida Legislature has NEVER, EXPRESSLY authorized a sales tax on Gun Club membership dues and fees.

It is an unlawful tax that is being willfully, knowingly, and arrogantly imposed in violation of state law.

They are willfully and knowingly violating the law because in June 2010, Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp wrote the Director of DOR notifying her that the tax was unlawful.  He asked her to stop imposing it and to refund the taxes already collected.

Arrogantly violating the law, DOR ignored the Lt. Governor's written request and did not even have the courtesy to respond to him. 

DOR just kept forcing clubs to pay the tax and even demanded that clubs pay taxes retroactively, hitting them with tax bills that threatened the loss of ranges.

In Tallahassee, a Gun Club was hit a tax bill of $20,000.  They reported to us that the club was going to have to borrow the money to pay the back taxes to keep from losing their range. 

An attorney downstate told us the club he represented was forced to pay $50,000 in back taxes.

Gun clubs have been reluctant to sue because DOR has unlimited tax dollars to fight a law suit.

Additionally, the 7th District US Court of Appeals ruled that "the right to train at a range... [is at] the core of the Second Amendment right to possess firearms for self-defense."    Ezell v. Chicago, 651 F.3d 684 (7th Cir. 2011)

DOR has created its own tax on Gun Clubs.  For over four years, gun clubs have been trying to resolve this issue with DOR, but DOR just keeps ignoring the law.   The tail is wagging the dog.

Now, the legislature is taking action to take back control of the issue and stop this abuse.  The language in this bill – once and for all – EXPRESSLY PROHIBITS the collection of sales tax on Gun Club membership fees.

IN THIS ARTICLE
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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.