On Sunday, July 1, Amazon.com and its many subsidiaries began collecting sales tax in Texas. In the lead-up to the start date, a number of newspapers across the country published editorials declaring that the time had come for sales tax fairness so that companies like Amazon.com no longer have an unfair advantage over Main Street retailers.
“It’s only fair all businesses compete with the same set of rules, so it’s good news Amazon.com will soon face nearly the same sales tax burden as Texas’ online and brick-and-mortar retailers,” noted a Lubbock Avalanche-Journal editorial a month before Amazon.com began collecting in Texas. The editorial concluded: “With this deal, Amazon is on basically the same footing as other Texas businesses — and that’s the sort of equality under the law upon which this country was founded.”
An op-ed in the Naperville Sun, by Tami Andrew, the interim president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, pointed out the difficulties in tracking use tax and urged support for a federal solution, The Marketplace Fairness Act (S.1832).
“We are a fiscally conservative organization,” Andrews wrote, “believing that a low tax environment facilitates business expansion, economic growth and individual achievement. Business and consumers benefit from a free and competitive marketplace, and we often opine on regulations that unduly interfere or bollox true competition. This is precisely why the chamber supports legislative action to resolve this distortion. We’d all like our taxes to be lower, but tacitly permitting tax evasion isn’t the correct way to go.”
In an editorial published in the Lincoln Journal Star, Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, wrote: “Retailers compete with each other every day on price, service, convenience, and selection. Good retailers try to match or exceed their competitors in every area. But, under the current system, the law gives remote sellers a singular advantage brick-and-mortar stores can’t match because they aren’t required to collect sales tax….
“As stores have lost business, communities have lost much-needed jobs. In Ohio, for example, a recent study by the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati found that leveling the playing field for local retailers could add 15,000 jobs to the state’s economy.”
Shay also stressed: “As a matter of interstate commerce, Congress must take the lead. Fortunately, lawmakers in both parties have gotten the message. In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans have sponsored a bill called the Marketplace Fairness Act that would require online retailers to comply with state sales tax laws.”
In Massachusetts, where Amazon.com has established business operations, the Berkshire Eagle urged the governor to require the online giant to collect and remit sales tax: “It is an easy call for the governor to fix a situation that is unfair to local retailers who help form the economic backbone of communities and denies the state much-needed revenue….
“Retailers are required to charge taxes if they have a physical presence in a state, which became the case when Amazon opened a development lab in Cambridge earlier this year. (Online retailers should have to charge taxes in every state in which they do business regardless of their physical presence, but one step at a time.) Amazon is charging taxes in six states where it has established on-the-ground operations, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t start doing so here as well.”
Curtis Picard, the executive director of the Maine Merchants Association, in an op-ed in the Morning Sentinel urged the state to level the playing field for Main Street retailers. Sales tax fairness, Picard stressed, is a policy that those on both the left and right of the political spectrum can — and do — agree on: “This issue is not a partisan issue. It is an issue about fairness, about creating a level playing field between brick-and-mortar retailers and online-only sellers and providing a better means of collection.
“The Maine Merchants Association and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study that estimated that Maine loses $19 million to $24 million in revenue that is not being collected,” Picard continued. “To level the playing field, online retailers should also collect and remit sales taxes as brick-and-mortar retailers do….
“Maine can enact legislation that would require the large, online sellers to collect and remit the taxes. This legislation has been passed in a number of states over the last couple years, with New Jersey being the most recent state to do so.
“Equally important is the action that can be taken in Washington, D.C., by Maine’s congressional delegation. [Rep. Chellie] Pingree supports the Marketplace Fairness bill and is a co-sponsor of the legislation.”