Heath: Georgia Businesses Need the Marketplace Fairness Act

Senator Bill Heath says it's time for Congress to step up and pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, a federal fix for this expensive and totally unnecessary problem.

Last year, the Georgia legislature passed a bill – signed into law by Governor Deal – that would require online retailers like Amazon to begin collecting and remitting our state’s sales tax, but so far it has not worked. While some are following the law, Amazon still hasn’t collected a dime. It’s time for Congress to step up and pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, a federal fix for this expensive and totally unnecessary problem.

There is no reason why Internet companies shouldn’t have to collect and remit sales taxes. Their Main Street competitors certainly do; even the smallest of local retailers dutifully collects this tax on every sale. In doing so, they are not only following the law, but also helping provide funding for public services that are generally paid for by sales tax revenue. Online-only retailers, on the other hand, skirt their responsibility refusing to collect and remit sales tax, even though it is still due.

It all goes back to a misguided Supreme Court decision made decades ago, before anyone imagined what the Internet would do to retail commerce. Now, with Internet sales booming and increasing every year, the built-in advantage and a lack of sales tax enforcement gives cyber sellers an anachronism we can no longer afford to ignore.

This Internet sales tax loophole makes it hard for Main Street Georgia retailers to compete with their online rivals. This not only hinders job creation and the growth of local economies, it undermines the shopper-friendly commercial centers in Georgia communities. If we allow online companies to unfairly dominate the retail industry, our cities and towns will become much less attractive places to live.

Funding for public services also suffers. Out-of-state Internet companies can take full advantage of Georgia markets, but do not have to contribute anything to the maintenance of infrastructure and services that support those markets. Each year, Georgia loses hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid online sales tax and ad valorem tax that is paid by local businesses. That money could have fixed a lot of roads and hired a lot of teachers.

The Marketplace Fairness Act simply creates a mechanism that empowers states, if they choose to do so, to require sales tax payment on Internet transactions. It does not impose a new tax; it just makes it possible for states and communities to collect the tax revenue rightfully due to them. It exempts startup and small Internet sellers, and makes sure states have sales tax policies that online retailers can easily follow. It would do nothing more than what the name says – it would restore fairness to the system.

Congress tried to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act last year, but couldn’t get it done by the end of session. This time there are identical versions up in the House and Senate, with strong support from both Republicans and Democrats.

But that does not make it law. The Marketplace Fairness Act will not be able to help Main Street retailers and local communities until both houses of Congress officially pass it and the President signs it.

If you believe that local stores deserve the right to compete with Internet retailers on a level playing field, and that online sellers should collect the taxes due to the state to help support our communities, tell your representatives in Congress. Ask them to vote yes on the Marketplace Fairness Act and to urge their colleagues to do the same. It’s only fair.

Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen

Cherrell April 07, 2013 at 01:46 PM
I totally agree with Senator Bill Heath. The Marketplace Fairness Act needs to become law, and the time is now. For an in-depth look at this subject, also see my post on this subject here at: http://pledgingforchange.com/guest-blog-posts/the-continuing-saga-of-e-commerce-sales-taxes.php
Davis Miller April 07, 2013 at 05:54 PM
I disagree. I spend a lot of money in my community and pay lots of taxes on every-single-item-meal-etc for every purchase. Most of my money is spent in local stores. The fact that we get to save "a little" for "some" online purchases is our right. This ACT will take away that right. Most people spend money locally, not online. Let the people see EXACTLY where our funds are being spent and maybe we'll find money there. This country receives a LOT of money in taxes - you get taxed on gas, food, clothes, everything. One example is: If you smoke there is a tax on those cigarettes already applied and then you get to pay Sales Tax. Supporting this ACT just taxes us even more.
Cherrell April 07, 2013 at 09:01 PM
Actually, the sales tax was enacted as a way back for local governments after the Great Depression. It helps pay for local services, which by the way also puts people to work locally. It's American, and it's just time to level the playing field. Like farming out jobs to other countries, buying online raises revenues for all those online sellers outside of your own state (or country) who give nothing back to the community in which you live -- making you pay more for your services in the long run. If you feel local sales taxes are too high, or unfair, you might want to get involved in your local politics.
Lowell April 08, 2013 at 02:53 AM
Tread carefully here. Push taxes on interstate sales and you may find them suddenly becoming international sales as Amazon shutters US distribution centers and moves jobs and corporate income across a border where the taxes cannot be assessed. The US loses in the end. Be very careful about your assumptions in this age where businesses are very, very mobile.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »