E-Fairness Initiatives Grow

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

The calls for e-fairness continue to grow throughout the country. Over the past two weeks, Oklahoma and Vermont introduced e-fairness legislation, and it's expected that similar legislation will soon be introduced in Maryland. On Wednesday, proponents of e-fairness legislation in Virginia earned an initial victory when the Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 660, sending it to the Senate floor for a debate and vote. The bill would level the playing field and make sure that out-of-state online retailers collect sales tax for sales to Virginia residents.

"With states facing budget shortfalls and a significant decrease in sales tax revenue, more and more states are looking to pass e-fairness laws," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. "We need booksellers in the many states where legislation has been introduced to contact their elected officials and demand that they support e-fairness. Moreover, we urge booksellers in other states to use the template letters in our E-Fairness Action Kit to contact their legislators and ask that they introduce e-fairness legislation in their state."


Colorado

On Monday, February 8, the Colorado Senate amended HB10-1193. In the amended bill, out-of-state online retailers will have a choice of either collecting sales tax or of notifying Colorado purchasers regarding the use tax they owe the state for their online purchases. Under the amended bill, the state is no longer asserting that online affiliates constitute nexus.

"From the beginning, independent booksellers and other in-state Colorado businesses have been fighting to establish that online sales are subject to the same sales and use tax as the sales from bricks-and-mortar stores, and we are pleased that this legislation establishes without question that this is the case," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. "However, while it is gratifying that the Colorado bill makes clear that we are in no way talking about a new tax, by shifting the responsibility for tax collection away from retailers the state has established a cumbersome collection method. For now, retailers await more information regarding the specifics of implementation and collection. Should the Colorado solution prove an ineffective remedy, we will actively continue the fight for sales tax equity."


Virginia

On Wednesday, February 10, proponents of e-fairness scored an initial victory when the Senate Finance Committee passed Senate Bill 660, important e-fairness legislation that will ensure that out-of-state online retailers with nexus in the state via online affiliates in Virginia collect Virginia sales tax. The bill is currently being heard on the Senate floor. If it passes the Senate, it will move to the House Finance Committee.

Sarah Pishko of Prince Books in Norfolk, Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, and Danny Givens of Givens Books and Little Dickens in Lynchburg testified before the Senate Finance Committee before the vote on the bill.

ABA and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) are asking booksellers to contact their senator and the members of the State House Finance Committee to urge them to pass this legislation. If this important bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. (R-District 24), is signed into law, out-of-state online retailers with nexus in the state via online affiliates in Virginia would be required to collect Virginia sales tax, thereby leveling the playing field for Virginia's bricks-and-mortar businesses. "The bill still faces significant challenges -- opponents of e-fairness have been working overtime to make sure that sales tax equity in Virginia is defeated," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher.

To help booksellers in this important advocacy outreach, ABA has prepared a template letter that booksellers can adapt and e-mail or fax to their senator and to the members of the House Finance Committee. (If you are e-mailing your letter, be sure to include your store name and complete address.)

In addition, ABA is asking all Virginia booksellers to please take a moment and adapt the "Thank You" template and send it to Sen. Hanger to let him know they support his legislation.

ABA and SIBA also ask that booksellers notify ABA's Senior Public Policy Analyst David Grogan at dave@bookweb.org or via telephone at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6662, when they have sent their letter. This will help ABA and SIBA compile information to support this lobbying effort.


Vermont

Last week, Rep. Jeff Wilson (D-4) introduced e-fairness legislation, H-661, in the Vermont House of Representatives. Thanks to the efforts of Vermont booksellers, the House Committee on Ways and Means said that it would consider the legislation. "For the committee to consider Rep. Wilson's bill among the many bills that were introduced in this session was no small feat," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. "The legislative process offers many obstacles, and each victory is crucial to seeing e-fairness realized in Vermont. It's very important to stay focused on this issue and keep the pressure on."

ABA and the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) are urging booksellers to contact their legislators and call on them in the strongest terms to support this crucial bill. In addition, they are asking booksellers to contact the House Ways and Means committee. To help booksellers in this important advocacy outreach, ABA and NEIBA have prepared a template letter that booksellers can adapt and e-mail or fax to their legislators and to the following key members of the Vermont House of Representatives and the Committee on Ways and Means (simply click on the names below to access the e-mail address):

This letter can be found in ABA's new E-Fairness Action Kit. (If you are e-mailing your letter, be sure to include your store name and complete address.)

ABA and NEIBA also ask that booksellers notify ABA's Senior Public Policy Analyst David Grogan at dave@bookweb.org or via telephone at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6662, when they have sent their letter. This will help ABA and SIBA compile information to support this lobbying effort.


New Mexico

House Bill 50, e-fairness legislation that Rep. Eleanor Chavez (D-13) introduced into the New Mexico House of Representatives in early January, was tabled due, in part, to questions over compliance and enforcement. Chavez said she would look to re-introduce the legislation in January 2011 if she is re-elected.

If HB 50 is signed into law, it would require out-of-state online retailers with nexus in the state via online affiliates in New Mexico to collect New Mexico sales tax, thereby leveling the playing field for New Mexico's bricks-and-mortar businesses.

ABA and the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association (MPIBA) are calling on booksellers to urge their state senator and representative to consider House Bill 50 in this legislative session. To help booksellers in this important advocacy outreach, ABA and MPIBA have prepared a template letter that can be adapted and sent to their state senator and representative. These letters can be found in our E-Fairness Action Kit. (When e-mailing a letter, booksellers should be sure to include their store name and complete address.)

In addition, ABA and MPIBA are asking all New Mexico booksellers to please take a moment and adapt the "Thank You" template and send it to Rep. Chavez to let her know they support her legislation.

ABA and MPIBA also ask that booksellers notify ABA's Senior Public Policy Analyst David Grogan at dave@bookweb.org or via telephone at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6662, when they have sent their letter. This will help ABA and MPIBA compile information to support this lobbying effort.


Oklahoma

As of press time, Oklahoma appears to be making progress towards e-fairness. On page 11 of Gov. Brad Henry's proposed FY-2011 Executive Budget is a recommendation that the Oklahoma Tax Commission be allowed to pursue sales tax from remote retailers:

"Currently, out-of-state businesses without a presence in Oklahoma are not collecting sales tax on Internet, telephone, or mail order sales made to Oklahoma, effectively providing them with an advantage over Oklahoma-based operations that do collect the sales tax. This compliance initiative allows the Oklahoma Tax Commission to pursue sales tax collections from the out-of-state companies in question. The Governor's budget includes an increase of $95 million to the General Revenue Fund in FY-2011 collection of taxes currently due the state on these sales by out-of-state entities."

ABA is seeking more information from the governor's office on this initiative, but Oklahoma booksellers are urged to adapt the template letters in ABA's E-FACT and ask their state legislators and the governor to support e-fairness.