DATE: June 15, 2015
TO: USF & NRA Members and Friends
FROM: Marion P. Hammer
USF Executive Director
NRA Past President
On Monday, June 15, 2015, the Florida Senate and the Florida House PASSED the Tax Cut Package bill HB-33A. The bill contains language to stop the Department of Revenue from imposing sales tax on gun club membership fees.
The provision was inserted by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) to EXPRESSLY PROHIBIT the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) from forcing Gun Clubs to pay sales taxes on membership dues and fees and to stop DOR from activity that threatens to shut down Gun Club shooting ranges.
Special thanks go to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R), House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R), Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R), Sen. Tom Lee (R), Sen. Don Gaetz (R) and Senate President Andy Gardiner (R).
The bill now goes to Governor Rick Scott for his signature.
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.
This is an unlawful tax that is being willfully and arrogantly imposed in violation of state law.
It is being willfully imposed 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.
It is being arrogantly imposed because DOR ignored the Lt. Governor's written request and did not even have the courtesy to respond to him.
DOR has continued to force clubs to pay the tax and even demanded that clubs pay taxes retroactively, hitting them with tax bills that would force ranges to close.
In Tallahassee, a Gun Club was hit with a tax bill of $20,000. It 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 lawsuit.
In addition, DOR is violating constitutional rights. Taxing membership dues and fees is a violation of the First Amendment right to assemble.
And since gun clubs hold meetings and discuss legislation impacting their Second Amendment rights, this is a tax on their right to freedom of political speech.
Further, 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 and DOR just keeps ignoring the law.
The Legislature has now taken action to stop this abuse. The language in this bill – once and for all – EXPRESSLY PROHIBITS the collection of sales tax on Gun Club membership fees.