A bad idea from DC? I’m shocked!

Last week, I briefly mentioned the Internet Sales Tax being considered in Congress — it actually already passed the House of Representatives.  It is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate today.

So this is the thing, I’m not sure I oppose the idea of all internet sales taxes. Currently, an internet business must collect taxes from costumers in the state(s) in which they have brick and mortar facilities. For example, because Amazon has a warehouse in Irving, I pay Texas state sales tax on purchases from them. I can even see the argument (although I’m not sure I support it) for businesses collecting taxes from all customers based on their local tax rate and paid to that local government.

But the idea that Congress is considering is so horrific that it could only have come out of Washington.  This is the thing: the business has to collect and distribute to the proper government taxes on behalf of the customer.  So for every customer who purchases from them, the business must collect and file taxes with that customer’s city/county/and state. Think the DMV x 10,000. I’m pretty sure Dante wrote about it in The Inferno.


Technically you, the customer, owe sales tax to your state on your internet purchases. Do you pay those taxes? No? Well, that’s okay. They’ll just shift that burden to comply with your state laws to businesses that aren’t in your state. There is a requirement that states “streamline” the process if they want to get in on the goods.  Because if there’s anything the government does well, it’s simplifying processes. And what happens if there is an error or discrepancy in the records? What if an internet business in Texas sells to a customer in New York and paperwork gets muddled as paperwork is wont to do. And New York goes after said Texas business for failure to pay taxes. Not only will business bear the additional cost of complying with the tax, but if things go pear shaped, then who do they appeal to? Who represents the business owner in the government to whom he must pay taxes. (Taxation without representation, that’s catchy.)
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This is not “leveling the playing field” with brick and mortar businesses. This is tilting the field grossly in favor of store front business and behemoths like Amazon that can afford to comply with umpteen billion tax jurisdictions.  And it will close small to medium sized businesses, strangling in the cradle the next Amazon.  The really small businesses–those who sell less than $1 million a year– aren’t touched in this iteration of the legislation. But of course, growth beyond that $1 million mark is going to cost, and many will no doubt choose to stay tiny.

If you think that in the time of ongoing economic distress and record unemployment, we ought not be putting up barriers for small business, call your Senator today and tell him or her to vote no on the Marketplace Fairness Act.

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