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News from Tallahassee for 5/24/13
NFL, MLS Avoid Florida After Stadium Bill Fails posted on 5/22/13
by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Florida was shut out Tuesday by the National Football League and Major League Soccer.
The NFL awarded the 2016 Super Bowl to the San Francisco area and the 2017 championship contest to Houston, a little more than two weeks after a bill tied to potential state funding for the Miami Dolphins and an Orlando soccer stadium died in the Florida House.
Early Tuesday, the MLS formally announced that New York, behind a partnership involving the New York Yankees and English Premier League powerhouse Manchester City FC, would be awarded the league's 20th expansion club.
Orlando City Soccer Club investor Flavio Augusto da Silva said, in a message on the team website, his team would begin an undetermined "plan B" to fund the new stadium, with the goal remaining to join the MLS by 2015.
“We feel confident that once we figure out the finances everything will fall into place,” the investor said.
For the Dolphins, the opportunity to host one of the upcoming Super Bowls was a goal while asking the Legislature to back a referendum that proposed an increase in the hotel bed tax and also to let the team apply for sales tax reimbursements, both in order to help pay for $350 million in improvements to Sun Life Stadium.
But with the upgrades in Miami Gardens now on hold, NFL owners meeting in Boston instead decided to hold the championship games in the $1.2 billion stadium being built by Santa Clara for the San Francisco 49ers and at Houston's Reliant Stadium, which has a retractable roof and is installing a pair of taxpayer funded, $16 million, hi-def LED "super screens."
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, a billionaire who has not advanced plans since the legislative defeat, had argued the Sun Life improvements --- including a canopy to shield fans from the sun and rain --- were needed to avoid a repeat of the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami that was played in heavy rain.
IRS slams Miccosukee Indians with $170 million in tax liens posted on 5/22/13
by JAY WEAVER | Miami Herald
The Internal Revenue Service has slammed the Miccosukee Indians with a bill of $170 million for the West Miami-Dade tribe’s failure to report and withhold taxes from its distribution of gambling profits to tribal members, according to court records.
In a long-running battle, the IRS also has smacked hundreds of the tribe’s members with separate bills totaling $58 million for their failure to pay personal income taxes on those distributions during the same period, 2000 to 2005, records show.
The agency’s crackdown comes after years of fighting with the 600-member tribe over its refusal to pay taxes on the distribution of profits from its casino operation off the Tamiami Trail. The assessments for back taxes, interest and penalties, outlined in federal tax lien notices filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, reveal for the first time the sheer scope of the tribe’s tax problems with the IRS.
Without the extras, the tribe’s withholding taxes alone for 2000 to 2005 totaled $45 million, and individual members’ taxes amounted to $30 million for that period, according to the tax liens.
The tax obligations of the tribe and its members are expected to soar because IRS examiners also are auditing the Miccosukee’s gambling distributions for the years 2006-2010, when payouts to each member were as high as $160,000 annually.
Despite the audits, the Miccosukee Tribe continues to argue that it does not have to withhold taxes on the gaming distributions and that individual members do not have to pay taxes on the income derived from the Miccosukee’s bingo-style slot machines and poker.
by TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA | HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU
TALLAHASSEE -- Two months after contributing $110,000 to Gov. Rick Scott’s reelection campaign, an upstart property insurance company is likely to reap a $52 million windfall, paid from the coffers of Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
Sitting on a record cash surplus of $6.4 billion, Citizens is hoping to ink a special deal Wednesday with Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company, a St. Petersburg firm that opened for business nine months ago and made significant political contributions.
Heritage has donated more than $140,000 to Scott and the Republican Party of Florida in recent months, and spent tens of thousands more lobbying the Legislature. Now it’s in line to get special treatment from Florida’s state-run insurance firm in the form of an unusual and lucrative “reinsurance quota share” agreement.
If the Citizens board of governors approves on Wednesday, the state-run insurer will pay Heritage up to $52 million to take over 60,000 policies, about $866 a piece.
Scott expands back-to-school sales tax holiday to include computers posted on 5/22/13
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida shoppers this August will get to buy computers without having to pay sales taxes.
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed into law a bill reauthorizing the state's popular back-to-school sales tax holiday. This year's sales tax holiday will take place from Aug. 2 to Aug. 4.
Shoppers will not have to pay the state's 6 percent sales tax on clothes worth $75 or less or on school supplies worth $15 or less.
But this year's tax holiday also has a new twist. Those looking for a new computer worth $750 or less also will not have to pay taxes on their purchase during the three-day period.
This tax break also applies to tablets, laptops, electronic readers. Shoppers will still have to pay taxes on the purchase of a cellphone.
Disarming Senators, Apple Chief Eases Tax Tensions posted on 5/22/13
by Nelson D. Schwartz and Brian X. Chen | NY Times
WASHINGTON — Timothy Cook came to the lion’s den on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, prepared to face down lawmakers furious over evidence that Apple, the famous company he runs, had avoided paying billions in taxes. By the time Mr. Cook walked out, the big cats on a Senate committee were practically eating out of his hand.
Even the panel’s fiery chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, after blasting Apple for creating “ghost companies” that diverted billions of tax dollars from American coffers and caused needy seniors to go without meals, had some kind words for Mr. Cook and his company.
“We love the iPhone and the iPad,” Mr. Levin said, going on to commend Mr. Cook and two other executives for voluntarily appearing before the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations. “I know it’s not easy to come in front of a spotlight but it’s important for us.”
Mr. Cook was especially disarming.
“It’s important to tell our story, and I’d like people to hear directly from me,” he told Mr. McCain and the other senators.
Apple, he testified, pays “all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.”
Apple, Mr. Cook said, was a victim of an outdated tax system. “Unfortunately, the tax code has not kept up with the digital age,” he said.
“The tax system handicaps American corporations in relation to our foreign competitors who don’t have such constraints on the free movement of capital.”
Apple is hardly unique in seeking to legally shield tens of billions in profits from tax collectors in the United States and overseas, even if its tactics may have been unusually aggressive.
According to one study cited by Mr. Levin, 30 of the largest American multinationals, with more than $160 billion in profits, “paid nothing in federal income taxes over a recent three-year period. Zero.”
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