Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, and Santa Cruz Sentinel Support E-Fairness

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Citing the economic crisis and looming budget deficits, this past week, three major newspapers featured editorials in support of e-fairness. The Miami Herald and the Orlando Sentinel called on Florida lawmakers to join the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel urged California legislators to support Assembly Bill 178, which is modeled after New York State's Internet sales tax provision.

On Friday, March 6, in "End of Florida's boom reveals the flaws in tax system," Miami Herald Deputy Metro Editor Myriam Marquez wrote: "Fixing Florida's sales-tax system and its exceptions should be a matter of fairness.... The biggest unfairness is billions lost to companies that sell their stuff on the Internet. Florida law requires sales tax to be applied to those sales, but the companies don't bother collecting it, and buyers certainly aren't going to send a check for six pennies on the dollar to Tallahassee. Those pennies add up to $3 billion a year. And those companies are unfairly competing with retailers that provide jobs in Florida." The editorial called on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and the state legislature to "draw the line at Internet sales and tax them" by joining the national Streamlined Sales Tax Project.

In the March 11 editorial "We think: Legislators could bring in billions more by joining a pact to collect unpaid taxes,", the Orlando Sentinel said, "Legislators who sincerely want to solve Florida's budget problems with as little damage as possible to basic services will make sure the state joins others in attempting to collect taxes on 'remote' retail purchases online, by telephone or by mail order....

"It is ... a matter of fairness. Traditional retailers in Florida are required to collect sales taxes, whether the purchase is made at one of their stores or remotely. That puts them at a competitive disadvantage with retailers that don't have to collect. It's no wonder business and labor groups agree on the need for Florida to join the multistate effort."

On Sunday, March 8, in its editorial, "As We See It: Tax Internet purchases in California," the Santa Cruz Sentinel noted that the state government is raising the sales tax by one percent on April 1, and wrote: "The fundamental unfairness of the Internet non-taxation clearly hurts bricks-and-mortar businesses in California. With the new increase, most Santa Cruz County merchants will charge 9.5 cents on the dollar. But, to avoid these taxes, a shopper could go to and buy the same item paying no sales tax. This obviously puts the local seller at a huge disadvantage and does nothing to help local communities or the state where the online retailer does business."

The Sentinel noted that Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner has introduced legislation similar to New York State's Internet Sales Tax provision that would raise an estimated $55 million in sales tax for California. Responding to those who contend that New York's law is unconstitutional and that online retailers would terminate marketing relationships with thousands of California residents and businesses if the Internet sales tax provision became law in the state, the Sentinel said, "We don't buy it. Rather, we see that online retailers reap all the benefits of operating here and none of the burdens." --David Grogan