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Shipping: An Overlooked Florida Sales Tax Exemption


In a modern economy, virtually everything is purchased and sold over the internet. Even groceries can now be ordered on demand from local Whole Foods. While sales tax has always been a charge begrudgingly paid on purchases and sales, it is not always carefully considered for shipping, freight, and packaging. With an increasing amount of sales requiring packaging and delivery, there are potentially devastating sales tax exposures for businesses not paying tax. Fortunately, Florida also offers exemptions on shipping, and the overpayment of sales tax on shipping can mean a fast-acting taxpayer may be able to get that money back in the form of a sales tax refund.

To make it complicated, Florida has three requirements for shipping to be exempt from sales tax: (1) shipping must be separately stated on the invoice; (2) shipping must be optional, imposed at the option of the purchaser; and (3) shipping must be incidental to the sale of tangible personal property. If those three requirements apply, the exemption covers carrying, delivery, freight, handling, pickup, shipping, and other similar charges or fees.

It is not uncommon for businesses to cut a deal that includes tangible personal property plus packaging or delivery in one lump sum. Fortunately, not all is lost in certain situations. Specifically, items that “accompany a product” are exempt from sales tax even when there is no separate charge on the invoice for them. “Accompanying a product” generally means that without the item, delivery of the tangible personal property would be impracticable. For example, if you order a case of wine, there is likely some kind of cardboard of foam divider that prevents the wine bottles from smashing into each other. This type of product that accompanies the wine is likely exempt from sales tax even if there is no separate charge for it.

Like many states, Florida offers additional exemptions surrounding the sale of food. While restaurant, food, and grocery exemptions are extensive in the state, they are outside the scope of this article. However, it important for those in the industry to know that in addition to the delivery and packaging exemptions described above, salt & ice are also exempt when purchased by the seller of perishable food.

Lastly, Florida has one more incredibly unique exemption: zip codes! That’s right, Florida assigns 0% sales tax rates to unique zip codes that are occupied exclusively by licensed freight forwarders and Certified Mail Receiving Agents (CMRAs). Because customers purchase and ship items to freight forwarders exclusively for export, these transactions are already exempt from tax. However, in practicality, customers generally end up paying the tax rate of the Florida zip code where the freight forwarder is located. As a result, Florida offers those freight forwarders with a unique zip code a 0% sales tax rate to ensure the exemption.

Shipping, delivery, freight forwarding, and packaging are all necessary costs in a modern economy. Located on the far end of the United States, closest to the Caribbean, and closer to central and south American than much of the rest of the country, Florida is huge importer and exporter of tangible personal property. That means many Florida taxpayers may be giving improper sales tax treatment to high volume shipping and packaging charges. On one hand, this could mean a huge potential sales tax assessment down the line. However, for those who have been blindly paying tax on delivery the same way they pay tax on the good purchased or sold, this could mean a large refund opportunity awaits. Unfortunately, the state of limitations only gives a short window for taxpayers to recover overpaid taxes. Therefore, affected taxpayers should consult a sales and use tax attorney as soon as the issue is identified to minimize potential liabilities and maximize potential refunds.

Florida sales tax attorney; Florida sale tax audit; Florida sales tax audit defense; Tampa sales tax attorney; Florida sales tax protestJeanette Moffa is an attorney who concentrates on state and local taxes at Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. She is an executive council member of the American Bar Association Tax Section State and Local Tax Committee and the Florida Bar Tax Section. Ms. Moffa is an author of both the CCH’s Expert Treatise Library: Sales and Use Tax as well the ABA’s Sales and Use Tax Deskbook. In addition, her regular columns on state and local tax issues can be found in State Tax Notes and Actionline, a publication from the Florida Bar’s Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section. She also serves as assistant editor to the Sales and Use Tax Deskbook and Actionline. Ms. Moffa is a regular speaker at the American Bar Association Tax Section conferences, the Institute of Professionals in Taxation, the Florida Bar Tax Section, the Florida Bar Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section, and the FICPA. In her free time, she teaches as an adjunct professor at Broward College.

At the Law Office of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, PA, our primary practice area is Florida taxes, with a very heavy emphasis in Florida sales and use tax. We have defended Florida businesses against the Florida Department of Revenue since 1991 and have over 100 years of cumulative sales tax experience within our firm. Our partners are both CPAs/Accountants and Attorneys, so we understand both the accounting side of the situation as well as the legal side. We represent taxpayers and business owners from the entire state of Florida. Call our offices today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION to confidentially discuss how we can help put this nightmare behind you.


212.02(14)(c), Florida Statutes - Definitions

212.08(6)(ddd), Florida Statutes - Sales, rental, use, consumption, distribution, and storage tax; specified exemptions.


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Manufacturing – An Overlooked Sales and Use Tax Exemption, published August 20, 2019, by Jeanette Moffa, Esq.
Manufacturing – Florida Sales and Use Tax Exemption, published August 23, 2019, by Jeanette Moffa, Esq.