ABA Urges Senators to Support Main Street Fairness Act

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This week, ABA CEO Oren Teicher wrote to Senators Susan Collins (R) and Olympia J. Snowe (R) of Maine to urge them to support the Main Street Fairness Act (MSFA).The letter was written in response to an article in the Bangor Daily News in which Sen. Snowe said she opposed the sales tax fairness legislation and Sen. Collins expressed doubts.

MSFA is federal legislation that would authorize states under the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA) to require remote retailers to collect and remit sales tax in those states. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Jack Reed (D-RI) in the Senate and Representatives Heath Shuler (D-NC), John Conyers (D-MI), and Peter Welch (D-VT), in the House. At present, 24 states belong to the Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP).

In the letters to Collins and Snowe, Teicher wrote: “This bill if passed would go a long way toward leveling the playing field for bricks-and-mortar stores in those states. More importantly, since customers already owe use tax for any online purchases they make, this is not a new tax — it simply stipulates who is required to collect and remit the sales tax.

“Currently, our independent bookstore members, and Main Street retailers like them, are being forced to compete with remote, online retailers that have a significant, and unfair, advantage. Many remote retailers, despite having clear nexus in states via online affiliates acting as sales agents and, in some cases, huge warehouses, are not collecting and remitting sales tax for orders made by residents of these states.”

Teicher also noted: “Importantly, sales tax fairness is an issue that is supported by Republicans and Democrats at both the state and federal level. Sen. Durbin’s bill is virtually identical to the bill introduced by Senator Enzi last year, and, ultimately we expect full bi-partisan support for the Main Street Fairness Act. We urge you to please support Sen. Durbin’s bill.”

The Main Street Fairness Act is supported by ABA, the National Governors’ Association, National Conference on State Legislatures, Governing Board of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, National Retail Federation, International Council of Shopping Centers, Retail Industry Leaders Association, National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, and National Association of College Stores.

The following states have passed legislation to conform to the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Conforming legislation was recently introduced in California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Texas,  and Virginia.

ABA is encouraging members to urge their lawmakers to support the Main Street Fairness Act.  A template letter that booksellers can adapt and send is available under their state in the E-Fairness Action Kit on BookWeb.org.