Florida – -(Ammoland.com)- On Tuesday March 31, 2015, the Florida 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 Rep. 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 stop DOR from activity that threatens to shut down Gun Club shooting ranges.
On page 85, line 2194-2208 is a provison inserted by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) to implement a 4th of July Sales Tax-Free Holiday on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, cross bows, 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 overwhelming 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, it 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.
Willfully and knowingly violating the law because in June 2010, Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp wrote the Director of DOR notifyng her that the tax was unlawful. He asked her to stop imposing it and to refund the taxes already collected.
Arrogantly violating the law because 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.
Further, 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, it is a tax on their right to freedom of political speech.
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 it’s 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 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.
About Unified Sportsmen of Florida (USF)
Organized in 1976, with the assistance of the National Rifle Association, Unified Sportsmen of Florida (USF) is a non-profit membership organization incorporated under the laws of Florida. Affiliated with NRA as the Florida Legislative affiliate, USF is an independent organization dependent on membership dues and contributions for financial support. Unified Sportsmen of Florida was organized for the purpose of protecting the firearms rights of all law-abiding firearms owners in Florida and to preserve the firearms rights guaranteed in the United States and Florida Constitutions.