Get ready to pay Florida sales tax for Amazon purchases

By Peter Covino

A&E Editor

The “free ride” is about to come to an end.

Online retail giant Amazon will be charging state sales tax to Florida residents beginning May 1.

I use Amazon quite frequently, particularly since signing on to Amazon Prime about two months ago. Prime gives customers free two-day shipping via its participating online stores and Amazon shopping departments. Amazon Prime was $79 for a 12-month period when I signed up for it. That also has increased to $99.

So serious online shoppers may want to do some readjusting to their shopping habits and see what else is out there.

Amazon will be charging sales tax now in Florida because two new distribution centers/warehouses in the state are coming on line, one in Ruskin, near Tampa, and a second in Lakeland.

While the warehouses do mean more jobs for the state, it does mean, by law, Amazon will pay the state sales tax since it will now have a physical presence in the state. Amazon is based in Seattle.

There are other perks with Amazon Prime as well, including a subscription to their online movie streaming service (like Netflix) which offers thousands of movie and TV series titles as part of the annual $99 fee. If you have an Amazon Kindle tablet, the annual fee also gives you access to “borrow” one book per month from the Kindle Owners’

Lending Library.

While I could happily keep on shopping guilt-free, it isn’t all bad news about the sales tax collection. Because Amazon has such a powerful presence, it will mean millions of dollars of revenue for the state each year via the sales tax. And so-called brick and mortar local businesses should benefit as well since Amazon will no longer have that automatic 7 percent price advantage prior to charging sales tax.

USA Today sports

Sports enthusiasts have a new online app to cheer about: USA Today Sports Weekly.

Available through the iTunes Store, Google Play  and Amazon’s Appstore, USA Today Weekly is a lot like reading Sports Illustrated or Sporting News on your tablet or smartphone.

While downloading the app is free, if will cost you $2.99 to see the most recent issues. But you can read past issues for free, so for real sports nuts, the magazine is a pretty good thing.

You can get an in-depth look, for example, at the Seattle Seahawks win in Super Bowl XLVIII over the Denver Broncos in the Feb. 5-11 issue.

Many of the stories include full color photos as well.  The free magazines are archived back through November, so that is plenty of reading. I counted about a dozen past magazines in the archive, available for free reading.

If you want this week’s sports news, you can preview the latest issue for free before making that $2.99 purchase. There are about eight issues available for $2.99, all with a free preview, with major topics such as MLB spring training,  the top quarterbacks available in the NFL draft and more.

The nice thing is that the titles are downloaded onto your tablet or phone, so if you are on a plane, for example, you can read at your leisure without needing WiFi. And this is a complete magazine, with lots of stories statistics and more. So if you are a Boston Red Sox fan, that story from a few months ago, on whether the Red Sox can repeat as world champions, will still hold your interest.

The app also includes a social feature called Stream, that lets you talk about  USA Today Sports Weekly content right inside the app with other sports enthusiasts.

Good to go

The first traffic light in the United States was developed by a guy named, appropriately enough, Lester Wire, a policeman in Salt Lake City in 1912.

It has taken more than 100 years, but now that same basic stop-and-go technology is coming to a toilet near you.

Entrepreneur Allen Klevens  is providing a new way to go at restrooms across the hospitality industry at places such as arenas, restaurants and hotels.

He calls it Tooshlights, an LED public restroom lighting system with a “green” light indicating a  free stall, a “blue” light designating an available handicapped stall and a “red” light to let you know a stall is occupied.

From the Tooshlights release:

With Tooshlights’ innovative design, there’s no need to peek between cracks, look under bathroom stalls and get into awkward situations to see whether or not a stall is occupied; and those in the stalls will be relieved to have privacy.

I guess that is a relief. And it gets even better. Tooshlights will launch a mobile app in 2014 to help users at large venues determine which bathrooms are closest and most accessible based on their venue and seating section.

Tooshlights will launch its mobile app in the first quarter of 2014 to help users at large venues determine which bathrooms are closest and most accessible based on their venue and seating section. Consumers will finally “know where to go” and be able to efficiently use the restrooms without the search or wait for a vacant stall.

If you have got the urge to know more, you can check out the website (they even have a animated video featuring anxious people waiting to go) at

Free preview

Bright  House Networks is offering a free preview of Universal Sports Network and World Fishing

Network (WFN).

Universal Sports Network  offers coverage of more than 40 sports and 25 championship events. The Universal Sports Network free preview is until June 29.

WFN has several new fishing shows premiering this month and also daily prize pack giveaways with a chance to win fishing trips. The WFN free preview ends April 30.