ABA Applauds National Retailers' Decision to Collect Online Sales Taxes

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ABA President Ann Christophersen today called upon Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Borders to follow the lead of national retailers that recently have begun to collect sales tax on their online sales. The news of the retailers' decision comes just days after more than 560 independent booksellers nationwide joined as co-signers on letters to their state governors calling for the states to enforce state tax laws fairly and uniformly. "I know I speak for booksellers nationwide -- who already have spoken loudly and clearly to their elected representatives -- when I congratulate these retailers for doing the right thing," said Christophersen.

On February 6, the Washington Post reported the retailers' decision, the result of an agreement between an undisclosed number of retailers and 38 states and the District of Columbia. Under the agreement, the retailers will collect sales tax for all online sales nationwide, and, in return, the various taxing authorities will absolve the retailers from any liability for taxes not previously collected on online sales.

The retailers' decision comes after a banner year for Internet commerce -- in which there were more than $73 billion in consumer sales -- and amid growing news of cash-strapped state governments scrambling to close budget deficits. As a result of revenue shortfalls, the states are facing making deep cuts in such services as policing, fire fighting, and education.

Wal-Mart, one of the retailers now collecting sales tax on online sales, characterized the decision as good for the company and for communities. "Many states are struggling with tax-revenue shortages that affect funding for everything from schools to fire and rescue," said company spokesperson Cynthia Lin. "This is our effort to help customers and the states they live in," she noted, as reported by the Washington Post. Other companies now collecting sales tax include Target and Toys R Us.

"Clearly, the ball is now in the court of national retailers that are not yet obeying the law and collecting sales tax," said Christophersen. "It's their choice: They can remain Internet scofflaws who siphon money away from essential social services, or they can chose to obey the law and serve both their customers and local communities."