The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

May 8, 2013

Internet tax would benefit local businesses

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The Daily Star

---- — Let’s suppose you’re the owner of a bicycle business in our area, and a customer comes in to look at a new bike. He asks you questions about it, maybe even sits on it or takes it for a spin. He compares it with other models, looks at the color and checks out what would be the best size for him.

Then, if he’s polite, he says “thank you” before going home and buying the bike online so he can avoid New York’s 8 percent sales tax.

It’s not only frustrating for you, it’s unfair, particularly when a lot of companies have reduced or eliminated shipping charges.

There really ought to be a law about that sort of thing.

We mean it. There ought to be a law.

On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted 69-27 to approve the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would let New York and the other 44 states that have sales taxes make large online companies collect them from residents who buy online. The law would apply only to outfits with sales of $1 million or more outside of states where they have warehouses.

“If this act can put us on a level playing field with some of the … large corporations … it may turn out to be a good thing,” said Anna McLaughlin of McLaughlin’s, which has stores in Oneonta and Norwich.

A recent survey of 2,500 online shoppers showed that almost 30 percent said they would shop more at brick-and-mortar retailers if they had to pay sales tax for things they buy online.

While the bill benefited from bipartisan support in the Senate, the House of Representatives may be more problematic. For many Republican congressmen, any mention of raising taxes in any way gives them the heebie-jeebies.

The New York Times reported that the conservative Heritage Foundation sent its members 10 reasons to be against the legislation, saying “it will hobble the Internet economy,” erode “state sovereignty,” force “small businesses to become tax collectors for other states” and unleash “all the nation’s tax collectors on small businesses.”

That’s just hyperbolic nonsense. Given the $1 million benchmark for adherence to the prospective law, it would appear that small businesses would not have to worry.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, to his credit, seems inclined to vote for the bill.

“Across the 19th District, local retailers are struggling to compete with out-of-state online and catalog companies,” he said. “My priority in Congress is to protect our local small businesses, and ensure their fair treatment.”

Let’s hope the ability to pass a common-sense bill returns to the House of Representatives … just like riding a bike.