Section 288.106, Florida Statutes 2001
288.106 Tax refund program for qualified target industry businesses.--
(1) DEFINITIONS.--As used in this section:
(a) "Account" means the Economic Development Incentives Account within the Economic Development Trust Fund established under s. 288.095.
(b) "Average private sector wage in the area" means the statewide private sector average wage or the average of all private sector wages and salaries in the county or in the standard metropolitan area in which the business is located.
(c) "Business" means an employing unit, as defined in s. 443.036, which is registered with the Department of Labor and Employment Security for unemployment compensation purposes or a subcategory or division of an employing unit which is accepted by the Department of Labor and Employment Security as a reporting unit.
(d) "Corporate headquarters business" means an international, national, or regional headquarters office of a multinational or multistate business enterprise or national trade association, whether separate from or connected with other facilities used by such business.
(e) "Office" means the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development.
(f) "Enterprise zone" means an area designated as an enterprise zone pursuant to s. 290.0065.
(g) "Expansion of an existing business" means the expansion of an existing Florida business by or through additions to real and personal property, resulting in a net increase in employment of not less than 10 percent at such business.
(h) "Fiscal year" means the fiscal year of the state.
(i) "Jobs" means full-time equivalent positions, as such terms are consistent with terms used by the Department of Labor and Employment Security and the United States Department of Labor for purposes of unemployment compensation tax administration and employment estimation, resulting directly from a project in this state. This number shall not include temporary construction jobs involved with the construction of facilities for the project or any jobs which have previously been included in any application for tax refunds under s. 288.1045 or this section.
(j) "Local financial support" means funding from local sources, public or private, which is paid to the Economic Development Trust Fund and which is equal to 20 percent of the annual tax refund for a qualified target industry business. A qualified target industry business may not provide, directly or indirectly, more than 5 percent of such funding in any fiscal year. The sources of such funding may not include, directly or indirectly, state funds appropriated from the General Revenue Fund or any state trust fund, excluding tax revenues shared with local governments pursuant to law.
(k) "Local financial support exemption option" means the option to exercise an exemption from the local financial support requirement available to any applicant whose project is located in a county with a population of 75,000 or fewer or a county with a population of 100,000 or fewer which is contiguous to a county with a population of 75,000 or fewer. Any applicant that exercises this option shall not be eligible for more than 80 percent of the total tax refunds allowed such applicant under this section.
(l) "New business" means a business which heretofore did not exist in this state, first beginning operations on a site located in this state and clearly separate from any other commercial or industrial operations owned by the same business.
(m) "Project" means the creation of a new business or expansion of an existing business.
(n) "Director" means the Director of the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development.
(o) "Target industry business" means a corporate headquarters business or any business that is engaged in one of the target industries identified pursuant to the following criteria developed by the office in consultation with Enterprise Florida, Inc.:
1. Future growth.--Industry forecasts should indicate strong expectation for future growth in both employment and output, according to the most recent available data. Special consideration should be given to Florida's growing access to international markets or to replacing imports.
2. Stability.--The industry should not be subject to periodic layoffs, whether due to seasonality or sensitivity to volatile economic variables such as weather. The industry should also be relatively resistant to recession, so that the demand for products of this industry is not necessarily subject to decline during an economic downturn.
3. High wage.--The industry should pay relatively high wages compared to statewide or area averages.
4. Market and resource independent.--The location of industry businesses should not be dependent on Florida markets or resources as indicated by industry analysis.
5. Industrial base diversification and strengthening.--The industry should contribute toward expanding or diversifying the state's or area's economic base, as indicated by analysis of employment and output shares compared to national and regional trends. Special consideration should be given to industries that strengthen regional economies by adding value to basic products or building regional industrial clusters as indicated by industry analysis.
6. Economic benefits.--The industry should have strong positive impacts on or benefits to the state and regional economies.
The office, in consultation with Enterprise Florida, Inc., shall develop a list of such target industries annually and submit such list as part of the final agency legislative budget request submitted pursuant to s. 216.023(1). A target industry business may not include any industry engaged in retail activities; any electrical utility company; any phosphate or other solid minerals severance, mining, or processing operation; any oil or gas exploration or production operation; or any firm subject to regulation by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
(p) "Taxable year" means taxable year as defined in s. 220.03(1)(z).
(q) "Qualified target industry business" means a target industry business that has been approved by the director to be eligible for tax refunds pursuant to this section.
(r) "Rural county" means a county with a population of 75,000 or fewer or a county with a population of 100,000 or fewer which is contiguous to a county with a population of 75,000 or fewer.
(s) "Rural city" means a city with a population of 10,000 or less, or a city with a population of greater than 10,000 but less than 20,000 which has been determined by the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development to have economic characteristics such as, but not limited to, a significant percentage of residents on public assistance, a significant percentage of residents with income below the poverty level, or a significant percentage of the city's employment base in agriculture-related industries.
(t) "Rural community" means:
1. A county with a population of 75,000 or less.
2. A county with a population of 100,000 or less that is contiguous to a county with a population of 75,000 or less.
3. A municipality within a county described in subparagraph 1. or subparagraph 2.
For purposes of this paragraph, population shall be determined in accordance with the most recent official estimate pursuant to s. 186.901.
(u) "Authorized local economic development agency" means any public or private entity, including those defined in s. 288.075, authorized by a county or municipality to promote the general business or industrial interests of that county or municipality.
(2) TAX REFUND; ELIGIBLE AMOUNTS.--
(a) There shall be allowed, from the account, a refund to a qualified target industry business for the amount of eligible taxes certified by the director which were paid by such business. The total amount of refunds for all fiscal years for each qualified target industry business must be determined pursuant to subsection (3). The annual amount of a refund to a qualified target industry business must be determined pursuant to subsection (5).
(b) Upon approval by the director, a qualified target industry business shall be allowed tax refund payments equal to $3,000 times the number of jobs specified in the tax refund agreement under subparagraph (4)(a)1., or equal to $6,000 times the number of jobs if the project is located in a rural county or an enterprise zone. Further, a qualified target industry business shall be allowed additional tax refund payments equal to $1,000 times the number of jobs specified in the tax refund agreement under subparagraph (4)(a)1., if such jobs pay an annual average wage of at least 150 percent of the average private sector wage in the area, or equal to $2,000 times the number of jobs if such jobs pay an annual average wage of at least 200 percent of the average private sector wage in the area. A qualified target industry business may not receive refund payments of more than 25 percent of the total tax refunds specified in the tax refund agreement under subparagraph (4)(a)1. in any fiscal year. Further, a qualified target industry business may not receive more than $1.5 million in refunds under this section in any single fiscal year, or more than $2.5 million in any single fiscal year if the project is located in an enterprise zone. A qualified target industry may not receive more than $5 million in refund payments under this section in all fiscal years, or more than $7.5 million if the project is located in an enterprise zone. Funds made available pursuant to this section may not be expended in connection with the relocation of a business from one community to another community in this state unless the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development determines that without such relocation the business will move outside this state or determines that the business has a compelling economic rationale for the relocation and that the relocation will create additional jobs.
(c) After entering into a tax refund agreement under subsection (4), a qualified target industry business may:
1. Receive refunds from the account for the following taxes due and paid by that business beginning with the first taxable year of the business which begins after entering into the agreement:
a. Corporate income taxes under chapter 220.
b. Insurance premium tax under s. 624.509.
2. Receive refunds from the account for the following taxes due and paid by that business after entering into the agreement:
a. Taxes on sales, use, and other transactions under chapter 212.
b. Intangible personal property taxes under chapter 199.
c. Emergency excise taxes under chapter 221.
d. Excise taxes on documents under chapter 201.
e. Ad valorem taxes paid, as defined in s. 220.03(1).
(d) However, a qualified target industry business may not receive a refund under this section for any amount of credit, refund, or exemption granted to that business for any of such taxes. If a refund for such taxes is provided by the office, which taxes are subsequently adjusted by the application of any credit, refund, or exemption granted to the qualified target industry business other than as provided in this section, the business shall reimburse the account for the amount of that credit, refund, or exemption. A qualified target industry business shall notify and tender payment to the office within 20 days after receiving any credit, refund, or exemption other than one provided in this section.
(e) A qualified target industry business that fraudulently claims a refund under this section:
1. Is liable for repayment of the amount of the refund to the account, plus a mandatory penalty in the amount of 200 percent of the tax refund which shall be deposited into the General Revenue Fund.
2. Is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(3) APPLICATION AND APPROVAL PROCESS.--
(a) To apply for certification as a qualified target industry business under this section, the business must file an application with the office before the business has made the decision to locate a new business in this state or before the business had made the decision to expand an existing business in this state. The application shall include, but is not limited to, the following information:
1. The applicant's federal employer identification number and the applicant's state sales tax registration number.
2. The permanent location of the applicant's facility in this state at which the project is or is to be located.
3. A description of the type of business activity or product covered by the project, including four-digit SIC codes for all activities included in the project.
4. The number of full-time equivalent jobs in this state that are or will be dedicated to the project and the average wage of those jobs. If more than one type of business activity or product is included in the project, the number of jobs and average wage for those jobs must be separately stated for each type of business activity or product.
5. The total number of full-time equivalent employees employed by the applicant in this state.
6. The anticipated commencement date of the project.
7. A brief statement concerning the role that the tax refunds requested will play in the decision of the applicant to locate or expand in this state.
8. An estimate of the proportion of the sales resulting from the project that will be made outside this state.
9. A resolution adopted by the governing board of the county or municipality in which the project will be located, which resolution recommends that certain types of businesses be approved as a qualified target industry business and states that the commitments of local financial support necessary for the target industry business exist. In advance of the passage of such resolution, the office may also accept an official letter from an authorized local economic development agency that endorses the proposed target industry project and pledges that sources of local financial support for such project exist. For the purposes of making pledges of local financial support under this subsection, the authorized local economic development agency shall be officially designated by the passage of a one-time resolution by the local governing authority.
10. Any additional information requested by the office.
(b) To qualify for review by the office, the application of a target industry business must, at a minimum, establish the following to the satisfaction of the office:
1. The jobs proposed to be provided under the application, pursuant to subparagraph (a)4., must pay an estimated annual average wage equaling at least 115 percent of the average private sector wage in the area where the business is to be located or the statewide private sector average wage. The office may waive this average wage requirement at the request of the local governing body recommending the project and Enterprise Florida, Inc. The wage requirement may only be waived for a project located in a brownfield area designated under s. 376.80 or in a rural city or county or in an enterprise zone and only when the merits of the individual project or the specific circumstances in the community in relationship to the project warrant such action. If the local governing body and Enterprise Florida, Inc., make such a recommendation, it must be transmitted in writing and the specific justification for the waiver recommendation must be explained. If the director elects to waive the wage requirement, the waiver must be stated in writing and the reasons for granting the waiver must be explained.
2. The target industry business's project must result in the creation of at least 10 jobs at such project and, if an expansion of an existing business, must result in a net increase in employment of not less than 10 percent at such business. Notwithstanding the definition of the term "expansion of an existing business" in paragraph (1)(g), at the request of the local governing body recommending the project and Enterprise Florida, Inc., the office may define an "expansion of an existing business" in a rural community or an enterprise zone as the expansion of a business resulting in a net increase in employment of less than 10 percent at such business if the merits of the individual project or the specific circumstances in the community in relationship to the project warrant such action. If the local governing body and Enterprise Florida, Inc., make such a request, it must be transmitted in writing and the specific justification for the request must be explained. If the director elects to grant such request, such election must be stated in writing and the reason for granting the request must be explained.
3. The business activity or product for the applicant's project is within an industry or industries that have been identified by the office to be high-value-added industries that contribute to the area and to the economic growth of the state and that produce a higher standard of living for citizens of this state in the new global economy or that can be shown to make an equivalent contribution to the area and state's economic progress. The director must approve requests to waive the wage requirement for brownfield areas designated under s. 376.80 unless it is demonstrated that such action is not in the public interest.
(c) Each application meeting the requirements of paragraph (b) must be submitted to the office for determination of eligibility. The office shall review and evaluate each application based on, but not limited to, the following criteria:
1. Expected contributions to the state strategic economic development plan adopted by Enterprise Florida, Inc., taking into account the long-term effects of the project and of the applicant on the state economy.
2. The economic benefit of the jobs created by the project in this state, taking into account the cost and average wage of each job created.
3. The amount of capital investment to be made by the applicant in this state.
4. The local commitment and support for the project.
5. The effect of the project on the local community, taking into account the unemployment rate for the county where the project will be located.
6. The effect of any tax refunds granted pursuant to this section on the viability of the project and the probability that the project will be undertaken in this state if such tax refunds are granted to the applicant, taking into account the expected long-term commitment of the applicant to economic growth and employment in this state.
7. The expected long-term commitment to this state resulting from the project.
8. A review of the business's past activities in this state or other states, including whether such business has been subjected to criminal or civil fines and penalties. Nothing in this subparagraph shall require the disclosure of confidential information.
(d) The office shall forward its written findings and evaluation concerning each application meeting the requirements of paragraph (b) to the director within 45 calendar days after receipt of a complete application. The office shall notify each target industry business when its application is complete, and of the time when the 45-day period begins. In its written report to the director, the office shall specifically address each of the factors specified in paragraph (c) and shall make a specific assessment with respect to the minimum requirements established in paragraph (b). The office shall include in its report projections of the tax refund claim that will be sought by the target industry business in each fiscal year based on the information submitted in the application.
(e)1. Within 30 days after receipt of the office's findings and evaluation, the director shall issue a letter of certification that either approves or disapproves the application of the target industry business. The decision must be in writing and must provide the justifications for approval or disapproval.
2. If appropriate, the director shall enter into a written agreement with the qualified target industry business pursuant to subsection (4).
(f) The director may not certify any target industry business as a qualified target industry business if the value of tax refunds to be included in that letter of certification exceeds the available amount of authority to certify new businesses as determined in s. 288.095(3). However, if the commitments of local financial support represent less than 20 percent of the eligible tax refund payments, or to otherwise preserve the viability and fiscal integrity of the program, the director may certify a qualified target industry business to receive tax refund payments of less than the allowable amounts specified in paragraph (2)(b). A letter of certification that approves an application must specify the maximum amount of tax refund that will be available to the qualified industry business in each fiscal year and the total amount of tax refunds that will be available to the business for all fiscal years.
(g) Nothing in this section shall create a presumption that an applicant will receive any tax refunds under this section. However, the office may issue nonbinding opinion letters, upon the request of prospective applicants, as to the applicants' eligibility and the potential amount of refunds.
(4) TAX REFUND AGREEMENT.--
(a) Each qualified target industry business must enter into a written agreement with the office which specifies, at a minimum:
1. The total number of full-time equivalent jobs in this state that will be dedicated to the project, the average wage of those jobs, the definitions that will apply for measuring the achievement of these terms during the pendency of the agreement, and a time schedule or plan for when such jobs will be in place and active in this state. This information must be the same as the information contained in the application submitted by the business under subsection (3).
2. The maximum amount of tax refunds which the qualified target industry business is eligible to receive on the project and the maximum amount of a tax refund that the qualified target industry business is eligible to receive in each fiscal year.
3. That the office may review and verify the financial and personnel records of the qualified target industry business to ascertain whether that business is in compliance with this section.
4. The date after which, in each fiscal year, the qualified target industry business may file an annual claim under subsection (5).
5. That local financial support will be annually available and will be paid to the account. The director may not enter into a written agreement with a qualified target industry business if the local financial support resolution is not passed by the local governing authority within 90 days after he or she has issued the letter of certification under subsection (3).
(b) Compliance with the terms and conditions of the agreement is a condition precedent for the receipt of a tax refund each year. The failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the tax refund agreement results in the loss of eligibility for receipt of all tax refunds previously authorized under this section and the revocation by the director of the certification of the business entity as a qualified target industry business.
(c) The agreement must be signed by the director and by an authorized officer of the qualified target industry business within 120 days after the issuance of the letter of certification under subsection (3), but not before passage and receipt of the resolution of local financial support.
(d) The agreement must contain the following legend, clearly printed on its face in bold type of not less than 10 points in size: "This agreement is neither a general obligation of the State of Florida, nor is it backed by the full faith and credit of the State of Florida. Payment of tax refunds are conditioned on and subject to specific annual appropriations by the Florida Legislature of moneys sufficient to pay amounts authorized in section 288.106, Florida Statutes."
(5) ANNUAL CLAIM FOR REFUND.--
(a) A qualified target industry business that has entered into a tax refund agreement with the office under subsection (4) may apply once each fiscal year to the office for a tax refund. The application must be made on or after the date specified in that agreement.
(b) The claim for refund by the qualified target industry business must include a copy of all receipts pertaining to the payment of taxes for which the refund is sought and data related to achievement of each performance item specified in the tax refund agreement. The amount requested as a tax refund may not exceed the amount specified for that fiscal year in that agreement.
(c) A tax refund may not be approved for a qualified target industry business unless the required local financial support has been paid into the account in that fiscal year. If the local financial support provided is less than 20 percent of the approved tax refund, the tax refund must be reduced. In no event may the tax refund exceed an amount that is equal to 5 times the amount of the local financial support received. Further, funding from local sources includes any tax abatement granted to that business under s. 196.1995 or the appraised market value of municipal or county land conveyed or provided at a discount to that business. The amount of any tax refund for such business approved under this section must be reduced by the amount of any such tax abatement granted or the value of the land granted; and the limitations in subsection (2) and paragraph (3)(f) must be reduced by the amount of any such tax abatement or the value of the land granted. A report listing all sources of the local financial support shall be provided to the office when such support is paid to the account.
(d) A prorated tax refund, less a 5-percent penalty, shall be approved for a qualified target industry business provided all other applicable requirements have been satisfied and the business proves to the satisfaction of the director that it has achieved at least 80 percent of its projected employment.
(e) The director, with such assistance as may be required from the office, the Department of Revenue, or the Department of Labor and Employment Security, shall specify by written final order the amount of the tax refund that is authorized for the qualified target industry business for the fiscal year within 30 days after the date that the claim for the annual tax refund is received by the office.
(f) The total amount of tax refund claims approved by the director under this section in any fiscal year must not exceed the amount authorized under s. 288.095(3).
(g) Upon approval of the tax refund under paragraphs (c), (d), and (e), the Comptroller shall issue a warrant for the amount specified in the final order. If the final order is appealed, the Comptroller may not issue a warrant for a refund to the qualified target industry business until the conclusion of all appeals of that order.
(a) The office is authorized to verify information provided in any claim submitted for tax credits under this section with regard to employment and wage levels or the payment of the taxes to the appropriate agency or authority, including the Department of Revenue, the Department of Labor and Employment Security, or any local government or authority.
(b) To facilitate the process of monitoring and auditing applications made under this program, the office may provide a list of qualified target industry businesses to the Department of Revenue, to the Department of Labor and Employment Security, or to any local government or authority. The office may request the assistance of those entities with respect to monitoring the payment of the taxes listed in subsection (2).
(7) EXPIRATION.--This section expires June 30, 2004.
History.--s. 76, ch. 94-136; s. 44, ch. 96-320; s. 31, ch. 97-99; s. 19, ch. 97-278; s. 7, ch. 98-75; s. 26, ch. 99-251; s. 38, ch. 2000-210; s. 59, ch. 2001-61.