ABA and AIB Head to Washington in Support of Sales Tax Fairness

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On Tuesday, March 4, the American Booksellers Association and Advocates for Independent Business (AIB) will be holding an Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., in support of sales tax fairness. Throughout the day, ABA and AIB will be meeting with members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to provide member retailers that are located in Judiciary Committee districts — including eight ABA member booksellers — the opportunity to advocate directly on behalf of e-fairness. The Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on sales tax fairness at 10:30 a.m. that day.

“We are very grateful to all the ABA bookstore members and the AIB association retail members that are taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in this Advocacy Day,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “This very important outreach to members of the Judiciary Committee is coming at a critical time, as the committee’s focus that day will be entirely on sales tax fairness.”

Following a sales tax fairness briefing by staff from the International Council of Shopping Centers, Advocacy Day will begin with a press conference at 9:15 a.m., after which participants will attend the House Judiciary Committee’s sales tax fairness hearing. After the hearing, participants will proceed to their meetings with Judiciary Committee members and their staff to discuss why passage of federal sales tax fairness legislation is so important to indie retailers.

“It’s exciting that the Advocates for Independent Business coalition is bringing representatives of so many organizations to Washington to make sure that the voice of independent businesses is loud and clear in this debate,” said Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and coordinator of AIB.  “This is a critical moment in what has been a very long road.  We hope that members of the House will recognize how urgent this issue is for the nation’s small businesses and move quickly to level the playing field.”

Mitchell noted that a recent survey conducted by ILSR in partnership with AIB found that sales tax fairness was the policy change that independent retailers said would most help their business.  In addition, 76 percent of independent retailers said that their business had been negatively impacted by the fact that large online retailers in many cases do not have to collect sales tax. 

“This committee hearing is the first formal step in the House of Representatives legislative process,” Teicher noted. “It officially sets the ball in motion for the House to come up with its version of the Marketplace Fairness Act and, hopefully, to bring that legislation to a vote.”

In advance of the Tuesday hearing, Teicher e-mailed member bookstores on Wednesday, February 26, and asked them to provide ABA with written or video testimonials about how the issue of sales tax fairness impacts their business. He also urged bookstores to add their names as signatories to a letter in support of sales tax fairness (below), which the Marketplace Fairness Coalition will then send to Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

ABA members who will participating in Advocacy Day are ABA President Steve Bercu, BookPeople, Austin, Texas; Alexis Akre, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, New York; Lisa Baudoin, Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin; Danny Givens, Givens Books & Little Dickens, Lynchburg, Virginia; Jill Hendrix, Fiction Addition, Greenville, South Carolina; Michael Link, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio; Mollie Loughlin, The Book Vine, Cherokee, Iowa; and Andy Nettles, Back of Beyond Books, Moab, Utah.

To add your name to the letter, or send written/video testimony, contact ABA Senior Policy Analyst David Grogan. The e-mail should include your name and your store name and address.

Look for more coverage of Advocacy Day in an upcoming issue of Bookselling This Week.


The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
House Judiciary Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Goodlatte:

We are writing to urge you to ensure fairness in today’s retail marketplace and finally resolve the serious inequity impacting local economies, community retailers, and the jobs they support. As small-business owners, we appreciate your leadership on this issue via your “Basic Principles on Remote Sales Tax,” released in September 2013.  We believe now is the time to move forward with legislation that will level the playing field for all retailers.

As business owners who are active in the community, we are dedicated to closing the online sales tax loophole that hurts community-based businesses, and we are calling on Congress to finally settle this issue and stand up for a free marketplace in which all businesses are given a honest chance to compete.

It has been more than 20 years since the Supreme Court ruled to exempt catalog sellers from collecting remote sales taxes, leaving it to Congress to revisit and resolve the issue should the need arise.  At that time, no one could have foreseen the rise of e-commerce and the impact it would have on the retail marketplace, nor the technological advances that have made remote sales tax collection quick and easy.  However, times have changed — as has our technology and consumer habits.

As small-business owners, we embrace competition and the challenge of attracting customers in the digital age, but we ask that Congress end the tax advantage currently afforded our online competitors.  Let us compete on true price, service, and selection without government’s thumb on the scale. It’s time to update our sales tax laws to reflect the economic and technological realities of the 21st century.

Passed with broad bipartisan support in the Senate in early 2013, the Marketplace Fairness Act marked a significant step toward ensuring all businesses — online or offline, large or small — play by the same set of rules.  While we understand your desire to pursue alternative ideas, we hope that the House of Representatives and your committee will move quickly and judiciously in 2014 to level the retail playing field. True free market competition will not only support America’s local businesses but will also strengthen our economy and provide lower taxes for everyone.

Again, we appreciate your efforts to build consensus and consider ways in which to modernize and update state tax codes to reflect new technologies and a dynamically changing economy.  We look forward to legislative action and we will be constantly monitoring your efforts and those of your colleagues on this critically important issue.  Please let us know if we can be of any assistance.