Booksellers to Testify at Minnesota Senate Hearing on Internet Sales Tax

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On Monday, April 20, Sue Zumberge of Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minnesota, is scheduled to testify in support of Internet Sales Tax legislation at a Minnesota State Senate Taxes Committee hearing. In addition, a statement from Sally Wizik Wills of Sister Wolf Books in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and a joint statement from the Midwest Booksellers Association and the American Booksellers Association will be entered into the hearing record. Zumberge and Wills were scheduled to testify at a committee hearing on Thursday, April 16, but after other sales tax issues ran long, the Internet Sales Tax hearing was moved at the last moment to Monday.

The Senate Taxes Committee hearing will focus on SF0282, legislation introduced in late January that would require out-of-state companies that have affiliates in Minnesota to collect and remit sales tax on sales made over the Internet to in-state customers. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Thomas M. Bakk, the Taxes Committee chair. Companion legislation was also introduced in Minnesota's Assembly.

If passed, Bakk's bill would go into effect on July 1, 2009. In assessing the proposed legislation, the Minnesota Department of Revenue, reported that SF0282 would recoup $22.3 million in lost sales taxes in Minnesota in FY 2010 and $28 million in FY 2011.

Zumberge said she is eager to testify. "I want to do this because I believe so strongly in the issue for two reasons: This will level the playing field for locally owned businesses, and it's a great source of revenue for a troubled state that is not being collected -- and it should be collected."

"The Midwest Booksellers Association and our booksellers are so grateful for ABA's organized, assertive lead in fighting for e-fairness nationwide," said Susan Walker, MBA executive director. "Now it's the Minnesota legislature's turn to address this issue, and we're excited by the effort our booksellers -- especially Sally Wizik Wills and Sue Zumberge -- are making to convince our lawmakers to take action. Many thanks to everyone who's contacting their senators and representatives -- keep it up!"

"ABA is extremely grateful that Sally and Sue are taking the time to testify on behalf of MBA, ABA, and the state's independent booksellers, and we are pleased that so many booksellers contacted their state legislators about this important issue," said ABA COO Oren Teicher. "This is a perfect example of the ways in which booksellers can work together to effect change. We firmly believe that, if passed, SF0282 would level the playing field for Minnesota's bricks-and-mortar stores, just as similar legislation already has in New York State. The Taxes Committee hearing is a tremendous step forward in our campaign."

However, Teicher cautioned, "We are far from victory. It is crucial that we keep the pressure on. I would urge any Minnesota booksellers who have not yet contacted their legislators about this bill to do so now. If you have already written your legislator, it is a good idea to send a follow-up letter."

In the MBA/ABA joint statement to the Taxes Committee, Walker and Teicher wrote: "We at MBA and ABA believe it is indisputable that any out-of-state online retailer that has one or more affiliates based in Minnesota -- affiliates that clearly act as solicitors on the online retailer's behalf -- has nexus in our state....

"In April 2008, New York State passed legislation very similar to SF0282, and, though the legislation was challenged by, a New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed the online retailer's lawsuit, and continues to operate its extensive, and active, affiliate network in New York State. According to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, in the first six months since their Internet Sales tax provision became law, the state has recouped $46 million, and New York State expects to recoup $68 million in FY 2009 - 2010. Moreover, the fact that more than 30 vendors have registered under the Internet Sales Tax provision in New York State clearly disputes any notion that this provision was merely the 'Amazon tax.'

"E-Fairness is not about any particular retailer or any particular business, it is about what's fair -- and that's treating every retailer equally under existing laws." (Read the full MBA/ABA statement.)

To help Minnesota booksellers in this important advocacy outreach, MBA and ABA have prepared template letters that can be adapted and sent to a bookseller's state senator and representative. Here's contact information for state senators and for representatives.

ABA also asks that booksellers notify MBA and David Grogan, ABA public policy liaison, when letters have been sent. This will help both MBA and ABA compile information to support their sales tax lobbying efforts. --David Grogan