Booksellers Urged to Help Fight for Sales Tax Fairness in Face of Strong Opposition

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The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 684) may have passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan ease, but, as expected, the sales tax fairness legislation is having a much tougher go in the U.S. House of Representatives, where opponents are aggressively working to block passage. And this week, one of the bill’s sponsors said it is in the hands of small businesses to help turn the tide in the bill’s favor if it is to pass the House. H.R. 684 would give states the choice to require remote retailers that do $1 million or more in gross national sales to collect and remit sales tax to the state.

“We had a great victory in the Senate a few months ago but the fight isn’t over yet," said Joe Rinzel, vice president, state government affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). “Those opposed to sales tax fairness have mobilized for the House fight in a way they haven’t in the past.  That’s why now is the time for bookstore owners across the country to continue to reengage and contact your congressperson and ask them to support efairness now.”

“The opponents of marketplace fairness are not concerned with giving people the facts, and they have the ability to fear monger the issue with a push of the button,” Jennifer Platt, vice president, federal operations, for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), told BTW. “And that is exactly what they are doing.”

ICSC and RILA are both part of the Main Street Fairness Coalition, along with the American Booksellers Association, the National Association of College Stores, and a wide array of trade associations and businesses.

Given the intensity of opponents’ campaign against H.R. 684, one of the bill sponsors, Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) stressed that the only way to turn the tide for the MFA is “going to be through the stakeholders and their influence with their members,” as reported by Womack noted that “we’re going to have to personalize the issue,” adding that it is up to small businesses affected by sales tax inequity to show their congressional reps why this issue is so important, the article noted.

ABA is urging its members to contact their Congressperson. To make outreach easier, ABA has created a template letter that booksellers can adapt and e-mail to their representatives or use as a source for talking points in a phone call.

“The sales tax fight has been a long, drawn out war but there is hope that a win is indeed possible — I think this is absolutely key to bricks and mortar stores’ survival,” said John Hugo of Hugo Books in Andover, Newburyport, and Marblehead, Massachusetts. “Using the ABA template and adding a sentence or two of personalization takes all of five minutes — what’s more important and less work than that?”

Also, if a bookstore’s congressperson is a member of the Judiciary Committee they should contact ABA Senior Public Policy Analyst David Grogan so that Grogan can facilitate a meeting between the representative, the bookstore, and other independent businesses.  

There is little question that foes of H.R. 684 have put their campaign against the bill into overdrive since the bill moved to the House following its overwhelming approval in the U.S. Senate. Groups such as eBay, the We R Here Coalition, the eMainStreetAlliance, the Campaign for Liberty, and Americans for Tax Reform — along with some members of the House who are vocal opponents — have dominated news headlines on a daily basis by attacking the bill. The groups contend that the bill is a tax increase, and is being pushed by large retailers who hope to crush small business competitors with massive new tax regulations.

This week, some opponents took part in a press conference organized by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) to further their mission to squelch the bill.

“Our hope is to build enough opposition in the House that it won’t go anywhere,” Alee Lockman, a spokeswoman for Daines told Politico. The article noted that “detractors accuse the bill of targeting small businesses by imposing a new code of regulations and inhibiting the potential for growth of businesses that rely on Internet sales.”

At the press conference, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated, “The reason it has passed — and it passed with a significant margin in the Senate — is because we have a lot of very powerful lobbyists in D.C. who are supporting this bill. What we are seeing in this bill is Washington ganging up with the giant corporations — you’re seeing Democrats and Republicans arm in arm with the giant corporations,” as reported by Politico.

“The idea that the Marketplace Fairness Act is about big retailers trying to target small businesses is simply untrue,” said ABA Senior Public Policy Analyst David Grogan. “For more than a decade, independent booksellers have led the charge to level the playing field for Main Street retailers. That said, if indie retailers do not counter this kind of misinformation, our opponents’ spin very well might be accepted as fact. To maintain out legislative momentum bookseller outreach to their elected officials in the House of Representatives is more important than ever.”

Booksellers with questions about the Marketplace Fairness Act should contact Grogan via phone at (800) 637-0037, ext. 7562, or e-mail at [email protected]. In addition, booksellers who send letters to their representatives should let Grogan know so that ABA can track this important advocacy effort.