California Booksellers Urged to Contact State Lawmakers on E-Fairness

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Today, in a joint effort, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA), the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA), and the American Booksellers Association began e-mailing California booksellers to urge them to contact their state assemblymembers in support of Assembly Bill 178, legislation that would clarify California sales tax law. Modeled on New York State's Internet Sales Tax provision, the proposed California legislation would require out-of-state companies that have affiliates in the state to collect and remit sales tax. The bill was introduced on Monday, February 2, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley).

In a news release, Skinner explained, "This legislation will close the current loophole in California tax law, which has allowed out-of-state companies to avoid collecting California sales and use tax. During this unprecedented fiscal crisis, we cannot afford to lose sales tax revenue from out-of-state companies when our own local businesses are struggling to keep their doors open."

"This bill helps preserve businesses and jobs in our communities," said Hut Landon, executive director for NCIBA. "Independent booksellers have been hammered by unfair tax competition from Amazon.com for over a decade. And as Amazon has expanded its retail reach, more and more locally owned businesses are faced with unfair competition. We welcome this effort to level the playing field for all retailers." Landon added, "We are asking all our booksellers to contact their assemblymembers immediately, and we'll be asking them to write their senators down the road as well. This is a priority issue, and we want to make it impossible for the legislature and ultimately the governor to ignore us."

"We are pleased to see Assemblywoman Skinner introduce this important legislation, which we believe is critical for the long-term health of both the state of California and its locally owned businesses," said ABA COO Oren Teicher. "It is important that independent booksellers in California take a moment and write their Assemblymember to urge him or her to support this legislation. As we saw so clearly last year in the New York State campaign for e-fairness, booksellers can absolutely effect change. A simple letter to your lawmaker can make all the difference." (Read more about the e-fairness victory in New York.)

To help California booksellers in this important advocacy outreach, NCIBA and ABA have prepared a template letter that booksellers can adapt and send to their assemblymember. The letter urges the legislator to support A.B. 178.

Booksellers can look up their California State Assemblymember here. Booksellers are also asked to notify NCIBA's Landon and ABA's David Grogan, when they have sent their letters. This will help both NCIBA and ABA compile information to support their lobbying efforts.

A.B. 178 amends Section 6203 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, relating to taxation. The law defines a "retailer engaging in business in this state" as a "retailer entering into an agreement with a resident of this state under which the resident, for a commission or other consideration, directly or indirectly refers potential customers, whether by a link or an Internet website or otherwise, to the retailer, if the cumulative gross receipts or sales price from sales by the retailer to customers in this state who are referred pursuant to these agreements is in excess of $10,000 during the preceding four calendar quarterly periods, except as specified." (Read the full text of the bill.)

In related e-fairness news, ABA continues to encourage booksellers in the other 43 states that collect sales tax to write to their state legislators to urge them to follow California's and New York's lead and introduce legislation to clarify their state's existing tax laws.

To help booksellers in this crucial endeavor, ABA has prepared a template letter that can be adapted and sent to state legislators and governors. ABA is asking booksellers to notify Grogan at dave@bookweb.org when they have sent the letter. This will help ABA compile information to support its sales tax lobbying efforts. --David Grogan