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Larry Fuchs, longtime revenue director and critic, dead at 71

by John Kennedy | November 23rd, 2013

Larry Fuchs, who served as Florida Revenue Director under four governors, died Friday in Tallahassee. He was 71.

Fuchs led the Revenue Department as an interim director in 1990, returning full-time in 1992 through 1999. He retired from state government the next year.

Fuchs was a plain spoken critic of the state’s tax system, complaining that it had grown increasingly inadequate in meeting the needs of a fast-growing and evolving economy. While most agency heads shun the spotlight — especially in matters that could put their bosses in controversial spots — Fuchs seemed to enjoy shaking things up.

Fuchs famously posed on the cover of Florida Trend magazine in 1999 with his pants pockets pulled out under a headline that read, “We’re Broke.”

At the time, Fuchs was warning that commerce was migrating to the Internet even as the state continued to rely on a sales tax system that takes in less than it exempts.

Fast-forward, and Fuchs’ screed still sounds fresh. In the last budget year, Florida collected $20.3 billion in sales tax revenue, while exempting $29.3 billion in goods and services from tax.¬† In addition, an estimated $450 million in Internet sales also went untaxed.

Fuchs, though, was mindful of the political realities in a state led by fiscal conservatives. Term limits also shorten the horizon, keeping most lawmakers from considering  big change.

In a story last year in the Palm Beach Post he acknowledged, “”I’m a notorious cynic, but I don’t see anything right now that can possibly force change.”

In retirement, Fuchs became a well-known fine art photographer. He also was president of the board of a Tallahassee arts center, where he put his revenue skills to work in guiding it through a financial crisis.

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