Tax cuts have received a lot of attention over the last several years, as the Legislature has reduced taxes every session since 2010. Major tax relief efforts, including Sales Tax Holidays, a reduction in the communications services tax, increasing the corporate income tax reduction, a roll-back of motor vehicle license taxes and property tax constitutional amendments and reductions have been particularly visible.
But virtually every year, the Legislature enacts dozens of tax and fee changes, many very limited in application and revenue impact. Even less known are minor tax and fee increases that have been enacted.
Florida TaxWatch has compiled a comprehensive list of state and local tax and fees changes—increases and decreases--enacted by the Florida Legislature since 2010. It includes every new or eliminated tax or fee, changes to tax rates or fee levels, exemptions, credits, expanded bases and more. It does not include provisions that change revenue without changing details of the tax or fee, such as the purchase of additional video lottery terminals or changes in the distribution of tax proceeds.
The value of tax changes is sometimes hard to quantify, especially when total savings from tax cuts packages are publicized. There are one-time cuts, recurring cuts, and cuts that expire after a couple of years. Often, in order to minimize the impact on the current budget, the effective date of the cut is postponed until later in the fiscal year. Not surprising, elected officials use the largest numbers they can, usually by adding the estimates of the non-recurring cuts and the first full year value of the recurring cuts. This often results in claims of tax savings that are never reached in any single year.
Using the results of the state’s Revenue Impact Estimating Conference (REC), our list specifies one-time and time-limited changes, as well as the portion of the impact on both state and local revenues. Impacts listed as “insignificant” are less than $50,000. The REC also places an “indeterminate” label of some changes, meaning a reasonable estimate cannot be developed. There are even changes for which the direction of the impact—positive or negative—is uncertain.
We have included both taxes and fees. Taxes are generally compulsory levies that fund broad government services, while fees are generally voluntary payments for specific services or benefits, with the revenue used for providing that service or benefit. However, the line between taxes and fees is often blurred, and the distinction is often lost on taxpayers. We generally do not include fines and penalties, however, the fines for running red lights, instituted when the Legislature authorized the use of red-light cameras, are included. This is because these fines were established, in large part, to balance the state budget and much of the proceeds were dedicated to state General Revenue.
Florida TaxWatch hopes this compendium of tax and fee changes contributes to taxpayer understanding and government accountability. The list will be updated for future tax changes.