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PRO: Online sales tax evens playing field among retailers

By ALLISON MILES
June 2, 2013 at 1:02 a.m.
Updated June 3, 2013 at 1:03 a.m.


The U.S. Senate recently approved the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would require stores to collect sales taxes for online purchases, according to a White House news release.

A similar bill also has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Current laws require brick-and-mortar businesses to collect taxes at the point of sale, according to the release. While consumers who purchase those same items online are, by law, responsible for paying sales taxes when filing their state tax returns, many go uncollected.

Like many other small-business owners, Marcy Davis' work week is filled with necessary tasks.

Managing inventory, organizing displays and keeping up with paperwork for Edna's Davis Jewelry & Gifts, for instance, are all a part of life. And, while she said she enjoys another element of the job - visiting with customers who enter her shop at 112 W. Main St. - one comment in particular irks her.

"I've had people come in and say, 'I bought this online so I didn't have to pay sales tax,'" she said. "They'll say, 'If I would've come in here, I would've had to pay.'"

Davis said she supports the idea of the Marketplace Fairness Act, a bill that would require online retailers to charge a sales tax, just as other businesses do. The move puts retailers on more of an even keel, she explained.

"Everybody else has to pay it," she said of the taxes. "Just because you're getting something off the Internet, it shouldn't mean you don't have to pay."

The National Retail Federation, in a May 6 news release, commended the U.S. Senate for passing the act.

Matthew Shay, the retail federation's president and CEO, said in the release that the bill levels the playing field among retailers and protects states' rights, all without raising taxes, bringing additional government mandates or contributing to the national deficit.

In that same release, Stephen I. Sandove, the retail federation's board chairman, discussed the rapidly changing world of retail.

"Retailers compete for customers on many different levels, distribution channels and fronts, including service and selection, but they cannot compete on sales tax," he said in the release. "Congress needs to address the sales tax disparity and allow retailers to compete freely and fairly."

For Liz Keehn, who owns About the Gift at 1305 E. Airline Road in Victoria, the issue doesn't necessarily boil down to pricing. Online shoppers still typically pay shipping costs, she noted, so the difference in cost isn't all that extreme.

She said she simply wants to keep things fair.

Online companies can oftentimes stock much larger inventories than their storefront counterparts, she said, meaning they already have one advantage: cheaper rates for buying in bulk.

"It just makes things even," she said of the potential change. "I think everybody should pay their fair share."

One more benefit also joins the mix, Keehn said.

"I like that we'll be collecting some taxes," she explained. "I think it will help our economy grow."

CON: Online sales tax ups costs, places burden on small businesses

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