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December 19, 2002


Businesses Prepare to Use Electronic Filing for Major State Taxes; Law Takes Effect in January

TALLAHASSEE - Thousands of Florida businesses have enrolled to begin using electronic methods to file and pay major state taxes as required under a new state law, starting in 2003.

The law requires businesses to file tax returns and pay tax electronically if they:

  • Pay more than $30,000 per year in sales or fuel tax. Previously, the e-filing threshold was $50,000 per year.
  • Have 10 or more employees on whom they paid unemployment tax in any calendar quarter in the 12 months ending June 30, 2002.
  • File consolidated tax returns for locations in more than one county.

Businesses affected by the law will be required to use the e-filing methods to file monthly sales and fuel tax returns for business activity in January. These returns are due February 1 and are late after February 20, 2003. Quarterly unemployment tax returns filed by businesses affected by the new law are due beginning with the quarter ending March 31, 2003. The law also requires Florida taxpayers to file intangible tax electronically if the individual taxpayer, couple or business owes $30,000 or more in tax. Of course, the Department encourages all taxpayers to use the e-filing options if they wish to do so.

About 10,000 businesses already have enrolled to begin using e-filing methods. Taxpayers who do not comply with the law will face penalties for non-compliance.

To help taxpayers comply with the law, the Department offers web-based filing options that are safe, convenient and free. Taxpayers also may purchase software from DOR-certified vendors that offer enhanced filing options. To enroll and use the web filing tools, taxpayers should visit the DOR Internet site at www.myflorida.com/dor/ and look for the Customer Information Bulletin item or "e-Services." When taxpayers enroll, they will receive a secure password for electronic filing methods.

For general information about these filing and payment requirements, please call 1-800-352-3671 from within Florida. For questions about unemployment tax, please call 1-800-482-8293.

No business will be required to purchase a computer or obtain Internet access to comply with the law. Waivers from the e-filing requirement, good for up to one year, are available in certain limited circumstances. Businesses also may comply with the electronic filing requirement by using the Department's "Tele-file" telephone system.

However, the law does not allow waivers from e-payment of taxes for businesses that file more than $30,000 per year in the affected taxes or for unemployment tax. These businesses must pay tax through electronic funds transfer, by credit card (except for unemployment tax) or by ACH transfer.

The new Florida law mirrors a national trend toward increasing electronic filing requirements. Recently, the state of Minnesota required all business and individual taxpayers to e-file all tax returns electronically. The federal government has encouraged e-filing of income tax returns since the early 1990s. DOR will be adding additional filing options for other taxes. For more information, watch the DOR Internet site at www.myflorida.com/dor/

In addition to businesses that meet the electronic filing criteria, new requirements also apply to:

  • So-called "zero" tax returns in sales or fuel tax. These are returns in which taxpayers owe no tax but are still required to file a return.
  • Any business or individual that prepared and filed unemployment tax reports for five or more employers during the previous state fiscal year (July 1, 2001 through June 30, 2002).

Taxpayers who e-file will need access to a computer using Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or better. If the business doesn't have Internet Explorer 5.0, a free download is available on the DOR Internet site.

The Department of Revenue is urging Florida certified public accountants, tax attorneys and other business representatives to remind their clients about the new electronic filing requirements.