Maryland Booksellers Call on Colleagues to Mobilize for E-Fairness

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This week, four booksellers in Maryland strongly encouraged other ABA members in their state to join the fight for e-fairness. Last week, Maryland State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-District 18) introduced S.B. 1071, legislation modeled after New York State's Internet Sales Tax provision, which would require out-of-state companies that have affiliates in Maryland to collect and remit sales tax on sales over the Internet to in-state customers. The Maryland State Senate held a hearing on the legislation last Thursday; however, the legislative session ends on Monday, April 13.

Steven S. Baum of Greetings & Readings in Hunt Valley; Patrick Darby of Novel Places in Rockville; Robin Dunn of St. John's College Bookstore in Annapolis; and Susan Weis of breathe books in Baltimore, e-mailed fellow ABA members and urged them to contact their legislators to ask them to support S.B. 1071.

In the e-mail, the booksellers wrote: "We need to do this now. If this legislation were signed into law, out-of-state online retailers with affiliates in Maryland will no longer be able to shirk their obligation to collect sales tax. A simple letter to your legislators can make all the difference. Booksellers in New York State were faced with a similar opportunity last year. New York State independent booksellers aggressively lobbied their legislators in early 2008 and their efforts paid off. In April 2008, the state passed the Internet Sales Tax provision, and, though challenged the provision in New York State Supreme Court, the case was thrown out."

"As we expected, the debate over Maryland's Internet sales tax provision has intensified," said ABA COO Oren Teicher. "Just as happened in New York, out-of-state online retailing giants that continue to flout the state's existing sales tax law to a decided competitive advantage over in-state retailers are lobbying against Sen. Madaleno's bill. It's crucial that Maryland booksellers immediately contact their legislators and urge them to support S.B. 1071. Last year, after New York legislators were met with an influx of communiques from independent booksellers and other indie retailers in the state, it resulted in a resounding victory for local businesses. Now it's time for Maryland booksellers to be heard."

While Maryland's legislative session ends in four days, a spokesperson for Sen. Madaleno's office said it's expected that S.B. 1071 would be reintroduced in January, if not voted on by the end of the current assembly.

Maryland joins California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Tennessee in considering Internet sales tax legislation. ABA is urging booksellers in the other states that collect sales tax to call on their lawmakers to introduce legislation in support of e-fairness.

Booksellers can find a template letter to adapt and send to their lawmakers on ABA's Sales Tax Initiative page. Booksellers are also asked to notify both their regional association and ABA's David Grogan when they have sent letters. This will help both the regional associations and ABA compile information to support their lobbying efforts. --David Grogan