NAIOP Seeks Sales Tax Parity
By David R. Corder
Chuck Carver wants a little parity for his clients. For one, the Tampa real estate attorney doesn't think it's fair his storefront retailers have to collect sales tax and Internet retailers don't.
Such inequity bothers the Ward Rovell Van Eepoel PA attorney so much that he recently traveled to the nation's Capitol with a local delegation to express his concerns to Florida's congressional leaders.
"I was pleased to learn the legislators appear to be receptive to the citizens' concern," he says.
Carver joined about a half-dozen members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the National Association of Industrial Properties in a coordinated national lobbying effort to back proposed changes to federal laws that govern the commercial real estate industry.
The national NAIOP lobbying effort focused on the following four pending congressional bills:
HR 3184 and S1736 - Requires Internet vendors to collect state sales tax.
HR 1634 and S 576 - Reduces leasehold depreciation on tenant improvements.
HR 1662, S 2009 and 3922 - Modifies restrictions in the Endangered Species Act.
HR 728 - Changes the notification requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The concern over Internet sales tax collection is a serious issue, says Jeff Rogo, executive director of governmental affairs for NAIOP Tampa Bay and NAIOP Florida. He cites a University of Tennessee economic study that estimated Florida lost about $1.4 billion in sales tax revenue last year.
"It's a tax already on the books (in Florida)," Rogo says. "People officially should be filling out a form and paying the tax. What the federal government is trying to do is simplify similarities between states on how they tax. Then it's up to the state government to assess and collect."
Owners of commercial office properties would benefit from a change in IRS leasehold depreciation schedules. Rogo says current law requires a commercial property owner to depreciate his leasehold improvements over a 39-year period. He says that doesn't make sense since the average commercial lease ranges from seven to 10 years.
The proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act could remove barriers to land development. Says Rogo: "It's time to take a fresh look using sound scientific methods to be sure the species we're protecting still need to be protected."
In response to a flood of litigation, the commercial real estate delegation supports a relaxing notification requirements under the ADA. This bill would give property owners 90 days to correct a barrier before an individual may file a federal claim.
"Apparently, there are attorneys who are encouraging disabled people to file suit against businesses, claiming that the buildings are not accessible to the disabled," Rogo says. "Whether or not the allegation is correct, the defendant is going to be responsible for paying the legal fees of the plaintiff. So the attorneys are receiving a fee whether or not the allegation is accurate."