As New York State legislators returned to the capital following their Easter break, and the state's budget deadline of April 1 looms, the American Booksellers Association continued its lobbying efforts on behalf of the proposed Internet Sales Tax provision's inclusion in the final state budget.
This week, ABA Chief Operating Officer Oren Teicher sent a letter to targeted members of the New York State Senate that stated, "We understand and appreciate your stance that New York State should hold the line on taxes during a period of economic stress and uncertainty. But tax enforcement should not be confused with tax enactment." In the letter, Teicher encouraged the senators to include the Internet Sales Tax provision in the final state budget and noted, "At a time when the state is faced with a $4 billion-plus deficit, the Internet Sales Tax provision will help bolster the state's revenue stream, and the economic vitality of New York State businesses and residents. And, it bears repeating, it will do so without raising taxes on residents, since New York residents who purchase items from out-of-state merchants are already required to collect and remit a use tax."
The Internet Sales Tax provision would ensure that online retailers with certain selling activities in the state, such as Amazon.com, would be required to collect and remit sales tax for sales made in New York State. It is expected that, if approved, the provision would raise $47 million for the state in 2008-09, and $73 million in 2009-10, according to the Budget-Briefing Book.
But state legislators are not only hearing the case for e-fairness from ABA. Booksellers state-wide are writing to their state assembly members and senators to express support for the Internet Sales Tax provision, many of them using resources provided by ABA.
"We know from both the meetings we had in Albany and from our friends at the Retail Council of New York that the most persuasive voice in support of this cause is that of a constituent. To win this fight, it's crucially important that booksellers contact their assembly members and senators in Albany and let them know that they support the Internet Tax provision," said Teicher.
One of the New York booksellers who has written to her legislators is Lucille Smart, director of the College Store at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in Geneva. She told BTW, "I appreciate the dedication, time, and expertise that ABA is extending on behalf of its members as the issue of e-fairness and the Internet Tax Provision is addressed within the New York State Assembly and Senate. The challenges that we face as booksellers continue to increase and yet the business environment in which we operate yields an unfair advantage to many."
Ann Burlingham of Burlingham Books in Perry, New York, also wrote to her legislators. "I don't mind if customers choose to shop online, but I don't like seeing [sales] taxes going unpaid," she explained. "I don't like to see tax-free shopping being an incentive to buy books out of state. I like to see that my community gets the income." Burlingham added that the template letters provided by ABA made the process of contacting her legislators "pretty easy."
All New York booksellers are urged to send the template letters, which reflect the latest developments regarding the budget and the Internet Sales Tax provision, to their assembly member and senator. The letter to the assembly member thanks him or her for keeping the executive budget intact and urges a firm stand on keeping the Internet Sales Tax proposal in the final budget. The letter to a bookseller's state senator urges him or her to reinstate the Internet Sales Tax provision.
Booksellers who have already written to their legislators are being asked to write again. Booksellers can find their assembly member here and find their senator here. ABA also asks booksellers to send copies of their letters to ABA Public Policy Liaison Dave Grogan at firstname.lastname@example.org. --Dan Cullen