In mid-October, three booksellers and a representative from the American Booksellers Association met in Concord, New Hampshire, with the legislative director for Congressman Paul Hodes (D-NH) to express their support for the federal solution to online sales tax fairness, the Main Street Fairness Act.
Connie Appel of Morgan Hill Bookstore in New London; Dan Chartrand of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter; Michael Herrmann of Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord; and David Grogan, ABA senior public policy analyst, met with Lauren Oppenheimer, deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Rep. Hodes. The booksellers and ABA had requested the meeting to discuss the congressman’s opposition to, and the booksellers support of, the Main Street Fairness Act.
The Main Street Fairness Act, which is sponsored by Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA), would authorize the 24 states that are part of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA) to require remote retailers to collect and remit sales tax on orders in their states. If enacted, the legislation would level the playing field for indie bookstores and other Main Street businesses.
The SSUTA seeks to simplify and modernize sales and use tax collection and administration to make it much easier for online retailers to collect sales tax. To date, SSUTA’s 24 participating states have simplified and streamlined their sales tax laws under the compact’s uniform set of guidelines. The Main Street Fairness Act provides congressional authority for the interstate compact to take effect. The legislation does not compel any state to join, but any state that adopts this system would then have the authority to require online retailers to collect and remit sales taxes.
“Ms. Oppenheimer was very friendly and receptive,” said Herrmann, who noted that bringing up the small-seller exemption in the proposed legislation proved extremely important. The small-seller exemption, though still under negotiation by Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement member states, is expected to be between $100,000 and $500,000. “I think we succeeded in communicating that this is not a new tax…. We need a level playing field.”
Said Appel, “I think the give-and-take of our discussion helped to get the message across that a tax-free Internet is simply unfair in giving Internet businesses a significant advantage over all other businesses, both brick-and-mortar and catalog. Here in New Hampshire, where we have no sales tax, booksellers are still affected by this policy because of the advantage it gives giant, online retailers in their sales throughout the rest of the nation.”