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FL 0% Sales Tax Zip Code: Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address


On May 21, 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 7061 into law, taking the first step in the right direction to equalizing the Florida export industry. For years, the Florida Department of Revenue engaged in secret agreements with select freight forwarders to provide them with a tax advantage over all other members of the industry. It almost sounds like a conspiracy: government officials providing a sales tax benefit of up to 7.5% to only a few, elite Florida exporters so they can slowly but surely put all their competition out of business. It is not the first time the Florida Department of Revenue exploited taxpayers by creating their own rules as they go, but it may be the first time the FDOR disrupted an entire industry in doing so.

We will likely never know what the personal relationship is between the FDOR employees who invented the 0% sales tax zip code and those who benefitted from its establishment; however, the 0% sales tax zip code controversy will not soon be forgotten by anyone. A curiosity across the nation, and a disaster in our own backyard, the 0% sales tax zip code was a program by which a select few exporters could have their very own sales tax rate of 0% based on the unique zip code in which they operated.

Obtaining a 0% Sales Tax Zip Code

How did these lucky few exporters get their 0% sales tax zip code?

First, USPS would assign the exporters a unique zip code due to the large volume of packages being sent to their address. USPS’s position is that unique zip codes are based on their own discretion and for the convenience of USPS rather than the taxpayer. Therefore, it tends to be businesses with a larger volume of packages who more easily can get a unique zip code. In some cases, USPS automatically assigns an exporter a unique zip code when USPS realizes that doing so would be more efficient. In other cases, exporters can apply for a unique zip code. However, it is important to remember that unique zip codes are at the discretion of USPS. Therefore, no one is entitled to actually receive one, even if they meet all the requirements.

Once the exporter obtained a 0% sales tax rate, the Florida Department of Revenue would assign a special, 0% sales tax rate to that unique zip code. Because the unique zip code was a requirement to be considered for a 0% sales tax rate, only large freight forwarders were able to obtain a 0% sales tax rate as the smaller business did not have the volume of packages such that a unique zip code would provide USPS the same benefit of convenience.

The end result is that in the middle of a county with a 7% sales tax rate, for example, one building could have a 0% sales tax rate applied to anything and everything shipped to that location. Of course, the 0% sales tax rate is supposed to apply only to items sent directly to the freight forwarder for immediate export. However, there is no statute or rule which explains how the Department prevents such businesses from simply purchasing whatever they wish tax-free while the rest of us pay our share.

If a customer wants to make a purchase from ***.com, will they ship their package to an exporter with a 0% sales tax rate attached to its address or to one with a 7.5% sales tax rate? It is a no-brainer! Customers would flock to those businesses that offer the tax-free purchases.

House Bill 7061: Not Equal to the 0% Sales Tax Zip Code

It is obvious that providing a few businesses a tax advantage over the rest would result in customers using the services of those with the tax advantage and abandoning those without the advantage. As years progressed, and Florida exporters suffered while a select few were given a monopoly of the industry, the Department saw the consequences of “playing favorites” with tax policy. Something had to change.

This change comes in the form of House Bill 7061 and the Florida Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address. This new legislation includes freight forwarders within the definition of a dealer and creates what is essentially an exemption certificate specific to the industry. The certificate will operate similar to a traditional resale exemption certificate. Exporters will be able to use this certificate in two ways: (1) they can provide the exemption certificate directly to the vendors from which their customers make purchases; and (2) they can provide their customers with the exemption certificate so that they customers can in turn provide it to their vendors.

For example, CUSTOMER wants to make a purchase from WEBSITE for direct shipment to EXPORTER. EXPORTER and CUSTOMER have two options to exempt the transaction from sales tax:

  1. EXPORTER contacts WEBSITE and provides them with their Florida Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address. WEBSITE updates their system so that all purchases made for shipment to EXPORTER are exempted going forward.
  2. EXPORTER provides CUSTOMER with their Florida Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address. CUSTOMER contacts WEBSITE and works with WEBSITE to exempt this particular transaction, or transactions made specifically by CUSTOMER from WEBSITE when such purchases are shipped to EXPORTER.

The Bottom Line: Not Good Enough!

Does this eliminate the 0% sales tax zip code program and the advantage that the select few exporters have over all others in the industry?


Does this provide the same benefit as the 0% sales tax zip code?


Problem 1: First, it is not guaranteed that the vendors will accept the export certificate. It is a unique thing; other states do not have this and likely have not heard of it. Why take the risk of incurring a sales tax liability when you can just ignore this strange Florida certificate a customer is providing to you? Remember – exemptions are construed in favor the state while taxing statutes are construed in favor of the taxpayer. The imposition of a 0% sales tax rate on a business is much easier to defend in audit than an exemption certificate.

Problem 2: Furthermore, many states do not accept out-of-state resale certificates. Businesses typically source their sales tax rates from, so the 0% rate is automatically applied in most cases. An exemption certificate must be individually reviewed and accepted or declined. Even if the business is willing to accept the certificate, the state where the vendor is located may deny the application of the foreign (out-of-state) certificate. Currently, there are 10 states which do not accept out-of-state resale certificate. And remember, the Florida Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address is not a resale certificate. Instead, it is a new thing no one has ever heard of – meaning it is much more likely states will be hesitant to accept it.

Problem 3: Lastly, in the cases where exporters provide the exemption certificate directly to their customers so the customers can use it while making purchases from vendors, there are a slew of problems. First, these are exporters! This means that most customers are located outside of the United States. Most individual Americans do not know how to properly use an exemption certificate, and yet this certificate presumes the foreigner, who likely does not even speak English, will be able to easily navigate the complex sales tax exemption rules of Florida. Imagine a customer in south America who does not speak any English paying for an international call with customer service from an American online retailer in an attempt to get that online retailer (who may, for example, be based in California where out-of-state resale certificates are not even accepted) to accept a brand-new Florida Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address, which the customer service representative has surely never heard of! It is preposterous to assume that the Florida Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address will be as easily applied as a 0% sales tax rate.

Going Forward: Where Do We Go From Here?

It is unquestionably wrong how the Department of Revenue devastated Florida’s export industry by effectively creating an export monopoly by giving select freight forwarders a tax advantage above all others. House Bill 7061 is essentially an acknowledgement of the wrongs of the past, and an attempt to make the playing field more level across all members of the industry.

Ultimately, that attempt fails to fix the problem. While Florida may appear to be adopting cutting-edge, new solutions to modern e-commerce export tax issues, in fact this is them throwing a bone to the businesses they have devastated while they perpetuate the advantage by maintaining the 0% sales tax rates that started this mess.

Florida exporters are left with no other options in the meantime, however, and should take advantage of this new opportunity: other exporters will. In fact, once the Department adopts rules for implementation of the Florida Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address, the flood gates will likely pour open with businesses desperate to get what competitive advantage they can in a market where they have been extremely disadvantaged for so long.

Exporters registering for the Florida Certificate of Forwarding Agent Address will want to be cautious as they approach the application process. There are many requirements in the application, and ongoing compliance obligations must be performed properly. The Department will surely be looking to revoke certificates to those who fail to comply. A Florida state and local tax attorney can assist you in navigating the application process and challenging a potential denial.  

undefinedJeanette Moffa is an attorney in the Fort Lauderdale office of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. She focuses her practice in Florida state and local tax, with an emphasis on sales and use tax. Jeanette provides SALT planning and consulting as part of her practice, addressing issues such as nexus and taxability, including exemptions, inclusions, and exclusions of transactions from the tax base. In addition, she handles tax controversy, working with state and local agencies in resolution of assessment and refund cases. You can learn more about Jeanette HERE.

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.


HB 7061


0% Florida Sales Tax Rate? Yes, in Certain Zip Codes, by Jeanette Moffa, Esq., published March 27, 2018

Shipping: An Overlooked Florida Sales Tax Exemption, by Jeanette Moffa, published September 12, 2019