By David French, SVP, Government Relations | Published: March 11, 2014
It’s been almost a year since the Senate voted 69-27 to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, legislation that allows states to require online sellers to collect sales tax the same as local stores. Now the House has an opportunity to pass similar legislation. Here are some of the key issues underlying this week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.
1. Sales tax fairness doesn’t create a new tax. Under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, online sellers are only required to collect sales tax from customers in states where they have a physical presence, such as their headquarters, a store, office or distribution center. But that doesn’t mean tax isn’t owed: Consumers in the 45 states with a sales tax are required to report untaxed purchases on their annual state income tax returns and pay the tax at that point. Few are aware of the requirement and fewer pay, but those who don’t leave themselves open to audits and penalties. By requiring online sellers to collect regardless of physical presence, sales tax fairness legislation would alleviate consumers’ need to remember to pay tax they already owe on these purchases.
2. This is a top priority for small business. Main Street continues to call for legislation that can end online sellers’ unfair advantage. More than 1,000 small business owners signed a Main Street Fairness Coalition letter asking the House to pass sales tax fairness this year. Local retailers are imploring Congress to end this disparity that threatens brick-and-mortar retailer’s ability to budget, hire and continue to grow.
3. Sales tax fairness could create jobs. A study released last summer by economist Arthur Laffer estimated that passage of federal sales tax fairness legislation could help America add 1.5 million jobs over the next decade. The study also found that eliminating the sales tax loophole could increase the nation’s GDP by $563 billion over the same period.
4. The financial impact on communities is huge. Passage of federal sales tax fairness legislation would recover billions in uncollected taxes state and local governments need to support essential services – think police officers and firefighters. See how much your state’s lost revenue is with this interactive map.
5. The fight isn’t over. This week’s hearing is another step in the right direction. But it will be the stories from Main Street that will serve as the strongest force to keep sales tax fairness momentum going. Tell your representative that now is the time to act: Main Street can’t afford to go back to square one in 2015.
We live in a world of omnichannel retail – a sale is a sale, no matter what the channel. It’s time America’s sales tax collection system matches 21st century retail.