Florida Passes Sales Tax Bill

ATLANTA-Both the Florida House of Representatives and Senate last week unanimously passed new industry-sponsored legislation that would exempt many advertising agency services from a state sales tax.
The bill, which will clarify many of the gray areas involving state sales taxes on advertising services, still needs to be signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush. The new Republican governor has not taken a public position on the bill, but has supported similar legislation in the past.
The bill is a culmination of a 12-year effort by the state’s ad industry seeking legislation to rein in the actions of Florida’s Department of Revenue. Following the repeal of the statewide service tax in 1987, revenue officials continued to audit ad agencies’ tax records and disallowing many of their claimed exemptions.
Linda Dove, the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ senior vice president for state government relations, said the “genesis” for the bill was two successful court cases filed by The William Cook Agency of Jacksonville, Fla., and Altman Meder Lawrence Hill, formerly of Tampa, Fla.
“A lot the credit goes to those two agencies,” Dove said. “Those were the cases that gave the advertising agencies renewed determination.”
The passage of the bill is a professional and personal victory for Brenda Edwards, governor of the 4th District of the American Advertising Federation, who last November asked AAF lobbyist Bob Levy to stop promoting the proposal while members pursued a grass-roots effort. That instigated a struggle between pro- and anti-Levy AAF members, before Levy was replaced by Jack Hebert, a political advertising specialist.
Edwards said she felt “vindicated.” Though “I still hate the way this all fell out,” she said, “our internal issues with Levy, if nothing else, heightened awareness and caused members to get more involved.” ƒ