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Elizabeth Djinis
By Elizabeth Djinis October 17, 2022

Florida’s communication services tax remains high despite DeSantis’ stated goal

During his gubernatorial campaign, Ron DeSantis pledged to lower the state's communication services tax, saying that "cell phone and cable bills are high enough without the state adding to them." 

Florida's communication services tax has consistently ranked as one of the nation's highest. 

The tax, collected from consumers and paid to the state by dealers, is levied on services such as cable and satellite television, video and music streaming and telephone and mobile communications, according to the Florida Department of Revenue. The total state tax rate is set at 7.44%, but local governments can impose their own additional rates. 

In 2015, Florida's average combined state and local tax rate was 16.55%, the Florida Chamber of Commerce said. That year, a provision to reduce wireless phone bills by 1.73% a month was included as part of a $400 million tax package proposed by then-Gov. Rick Scott, according to Florida TaxWatch, a nonpartisan government watchdog organization funded by business interests. 

Florida dropped from fourth-highest in the nation for taxes, fees and government charges on wireless service in 2015 to 12th in the nation in July 2021, with a state and local wireless rate around 15%, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

In the years following the cut, Florida's median communication services tax was still almost double Florida's median local and state sales tax rate. And DeSantis has not been able to whittle it down further,

Legislative attempts to lower the communication services tax during his tenure have failed.

A pair of bills in 2019 would have reduced the communication services tax by 1%, but the language was removed from the legislation before it passed. In 2020, the Florida Legislature's original tax package proposed cutting 0.5% from the CST through HB 7097, but that was taken out when COVID-19 hit and legislators decided against hefty tax cuts

Tax experts speculate that Florida's communication services tax rate may be so high because cities and counties can set their own rates, which range from 0.3% to 7.6%, according to Florida Department of Revenue data. 

When asked by PolitiFact, a Governor's Office spokesperson pointed to 2022's HB 7071, which created a number of sales tax holidays.

Because there's been little substantive change in the last four years on Florida's communication services tax, we rate this Promise Broken. ​

Our Sources

Tax Foundation, Excise Taxes and Fees on Wireless Services Increase Again in 2021, October 12, 2021

Tax Foundation, Wireless Taxes and Fees Climb Again in 2018, December 11, 2018

Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Has the 4th Highest Cell Phone Tax Rate in the U.S., March 3, 2015

Florida Department of Revenue, Florida Communications Services Tax

RCRWirelessNews, Florida passes wireless service tax cut, June 19, 2015

Florida TaxWatch, Tax Changes Over Time, 2010-2022

Florida TaxWatch, Reducing the Communications Services Tax Would Provide Relief to Virtually All Florida Families and Businesses; Florida's High Tax Rate is Punitive, Distortionary, and Non-Competitive, March 25, 2019

Florida Senate, SB 1000, Filed on February 13, 2019

Florida Politics, House panel OKs 1 percent cut to state communications services tax, March 19, 2019

Florida House, HB 7097, Filed February 20, 2020

Florida Politics, Gov. DeSantis signs Legislature's tax cut package, April 9, 2020

Florida Department of Revenue data, Communications Services Tax rate table, as of January 1, 2019

Email interview, Jeremy Redfern, Deputy Press Secretary, Executive Office of the Governor, Oct. 14, 2022

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