New York Booksellers Call on Governor to Enforce Sales Tax Laws [3]

This week, 29 American Booksellers Association-member booksellers in New York State called on Governor Eliot Spitzer to enforce the equitable collection of sales tax. In a letter dated Wednesday, November 21, the booksellers stressed that, when out-of-state online retailers with clear nexus in the state via New York-based affiliations skirt tax laws, New York-based businesses lose sales as shoppers take advantage of tax-free shopping. The booksellers stressed that the situation is only compounded at holiday time. The booksellers' letter was a follow-up to the November 15 letter [4] sent to Governor Spitzer by ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz.

"As we enter the holiday shopping season, we would like to point out that booksellers (and indeed all New York State businesses) are faced with an egregiously unfair business loophole -- one that continues to penalize businesses such as ours -- and that is the state's uneven enforcement of sales tax collection," the New York-based booksellers stated in the letter.

"Locally owned independent businesses like ours are the backbone of New York's economy," they continued. "Every analysis points to the fact that locally owned businesses -- particularly retailers -- have far greater economic impact on their communities; contribute more to local charities; and are largely responsible for our villages, towns, and cities retaining their unique characteristics. To undercut them by selectively deciding what laws to enforce and what laws to ignore is simply outrageous."

As of press time, the bookstores that signed the letter are: Bank Street Bookstore; Battenkill Books; Book Culture; Brownstone Books; Burlingham Books; Canio's Books; Chappaqua Bookshop; Creekside Books & Coffee; Flights of Fantasy Books, Games & Accessories; Gansevoort House Books; Here's a Book Store; Hobart International Bookport; Lift Bridge Book Shop; Longs' Cards and Books; The Lower East Side Tenement Museum; McNally Robinson Booksellers; Merritt Bookstore; Oblong Books & Music; Paperbacks Plus; Red Fox Books; Rizzoli Bookstore; Runaway Bay Books; St. Mark's Bookshop, Inc., Talking Leaves ... Books; the river's end bookstore; The Spotty Dog Books & Ale; Three Lives & Company; Village Books, and WORD.

Look for continuing coverage of efforts to ensure e-fairness in upcoming editions of Bookselling This Week.


Governor Eliot Spitzer
Office of the Governor
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Spitzer:

We the undersigned are following up on a letter sent by the American Booksellers Association on November 15, regarding your recent decision to abandon plans to equitably enforce existing tax laws by requiring out-of-state retailers with nexus in the state to collect sales tax. As we enter the holiday shopping season, we would like to point out that booksellers (and indeed all New York State businesses) are faced with an egregiously unfair business loophole -- one that continues to penalize businesses such as ours -- and that is the state's uneven enforcement of sales tax collection.

We believe you had it right the first time: The November 9 memorandum from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance made clear that online retailers with affiliates in New York are required to collect and submit sales tax. This is clearly existing state law -- not a new tax of any kind -- and we urge you to rethink your position and enforce the law.

Locally owned independent businesses like ours are the backbone of New York's economy. Every analysis points to the fact that locally owned businesses -- particularly retailers -- have far greater economic impact on their communities; contribute more to local charities; and are largely responsible for our villages, towns, and cities retaining their unique characteristics. To undercut them by selectively deciding what laws to enforce and what laws to ignore is simply outrageous.

Importantly, we are in no way discussing any new "Internet taxes." We are simply urging you to untie the hands of your state taxing authorities and to allow them to enforce the tax laws already in place. Online retailers that have an indisputable presence in your state -- whether it's through a sales rep, a bricks-and-mortar store, or an affiliate relationship -- are no different than any other business within New York.

In contrast to the challenges that bricks-and-mortar retailers are grappling with this holiday season (including escalating gas prices and a weakening economy), a report recently predicted that online holiday sales will increase by some 18.5 percent this season for online retailers. In the report, Jeffrey Grau, a senior analyst for eMarketer, an online market research company, noted that this is "far superior to the low single-digit growth rate forecast for the overall retail industry this holiday season."

In such a retail climate, when such large out-of-state online retailers as Amazon.com -- that clearly have nexus in the state through their many New York-based affiliations -- skirt tax laws, New York-based businesses will lose sales as shoppers inevitably take advantage of tax-free shopping. In the end, New York's citizens are also losers, as potential tax revenue from both sources is uncollected -- monies that fund such essential services as schools and first responders.

Over the past few years, the problem has only grown worse, as more e-commerce companies that fail to collect sales tax compete unfairly, driving more consumers online because of an unfair playing field. We are not asking for special treatment. However, we are looking for their state government to enforce the laws uniformly and fairly.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Bank Street Bookstore
New York, New York

Battenkill Books
Cambridge, New York

Book Culture
New York, New York

Brownstone Books
Brooklyn, New York

Burlingham Books
Perry, New York

Canio's Books
Sag Harbor, New York

Chappaqua Bookshop
Chappaqua, New York

Creekside Books & Coffee
Skaneateles, New York

Flights of Fantasy Books, Games & Accessories
Loudonville, New York

Gansevoort House Books
Little Falls, New York

Here's a Book Store
Brooklyn, New York

Hobart International Bookport
Hobart, New York

Lift Bridge Book Shop
Brockport, New York

Longs' Cards and Books
Penn Yan, New York

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
New York, New York

McNally Robinson Booksellers
New York, New York

Merritt Books
Millbrook, New York

Oblong Books & Music
Millerton & Rhinebeck, New York

Paperbacks Plus
Bronx, New York

Red Fox Books
Glens Falls, New York

the river's end bookstore
Oswego, New York

Rizzoli Bookstore
New York, New York

Runaway Bay Books
Sayville, New York

St. Mark's Bookshop, Inc.
New York, New York

The Spotty Dog Books & Ale
Hudson, New York

Talking Leaves ... Books
Buffalo, New York

Three Lives & Company
New York, New York

The Village Bookstore
Pleasantville, New York

WORD
Brooklyn, New York