Fly-In Participants Advocate for Sales Tax Fairness

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Last week, hundreds of small business owners met with elected officials in Washington, D.C., to communicate firsthand the importance of sales tax fairness and the need to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act. The two-day fly-in was organized by the Alliance for Main Street Fairness, and among the retailers participating were two ABA member booksellers, Sarah Pishko of Prince Books in Norfolk, Virginia, and ABA Board member Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books & Café in Wichita, Kansas.

The Marketplace Fairness Act (S.336/H.R.684) would give states the authority to require remote retailers to collect and remit sales tax on purchases made by customers in their state, but only if the remote retailer does $1 million or more in gross out-of-state sales annually. The legislation would not require any state to enact sales tax collection for remote sales. The Act was introduced in February by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Michael Enzi (R-WY), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

The Marketplace Fairness Act recently received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate when put to a vote as an amendment to the Senate budget resolution. And there is a good chance that the bill will come to the floor of the Senate for a vote in the next week.

Some 32 business owners from nine states were part of the advocacy outreach. “Once again, the Alliance for Main Street Fairness members successfully made their case in Washington, D.C., for true fairness in the marketplace and called for the end of government subsidies for online retailers,” said Joe Rinzel, vice president, state government affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which helped to organize the event. “It’s amazing how far this group has come. With outstanding and highly educated members like Sarah Bagby and Sarah Pishko advocating to close this loophole, it's no wonder that the Senate recently voted 75-24 in favor of congressional action. We remain very optimistic that all our efforts will bring more action, as well as an ultimate solution, this year.”

On Wednesday, April 10, the participants met with members of Congress to discuss their support for the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 (S.336/H.R.684). Bagby met with Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS 4th District) and with the office staff of both senators and representatives, including those of Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Representatives Tim Heulskamp (R-KS 1st District) and Lynn Jenkins (R-KS 2nd District).

Pishko had meetings with staff from the offices of Representatives Eric Cantor (R-VA 7th District), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA 6th District), Bobby Scott (D-VA 3rd District), and Randy Forbes (R-VA 4th District), as well as with staff for Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

“I would say our meetings went very well,” said Bagby. “The recent endorsement by the Senate was very helpful, and in the meetings we were able to further explain why we need equitable sales tax enforcement, which expanded on some things people needed to know. If I were to quantify where we are now, most people think at this point it’s not a question of if it’s going to happen, but when and how.”

The next day, on Thursday, April 11, the booksellers joined Representatives Steve Womack (R-AR) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) for a press conference highlighting the importance of passing the Marketplace Fairness Act this year, and followed the press event up with more meetings on Capitol Hill.