The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 8, 2013

Our View: Creating a fairer market

The Joplin Globe

— When you buy flowers this week for your mother through your local florist, you will be charged sales tax, which in turn is dispersed into city, county and state coffers.

It’s the way we pay for parks, municipal golf courses and the cost of keeping the local courthouse open, just to name a few services.

But order those same flowers through an online service and chances are you won’t pay sales tax.

So while Main Street America operates under one set of rules, Internet retailers like eBay and Amazon are not required to collect sales taxes, except in states where they have offices or distribution centers.

The U.S. Senate on Monday voted 69-27 to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, a bill that will allow states to collect sales taxes from Internet purchases. Under the bill, states could require out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes when they sell products over the Internet, in catalogs or through radio and TV ads. The sales taxes would be sent to the states where a shopper lives.

Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt, a Republican, and Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, voted in favor of the measure. Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans, voted against the measure. Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas was a “no” vote, while Sen. Jerry Moran, also a Republican, did not vote.

Proponents believe the bill will help level the playing field, although the bill does include an exemption for online sellers who generate $1 million or less in annual gross receipts.

Last year, Internet sales in the U.S. totaled $226 billion, up nearly 16 percent from the previous year, according to government estimates. But states $23 billion last year because they couldn’t collect taxes on out-of-state sales. About half of that was lost from Internet sales; half from purchases made through catalogs, mail orders and telephone orders, the study said.

We know it’s a complicated issue, but we think it’s up to legislators to treat all businesses equally. The measure will now go to the House.

We urge U.S. representatives who represent our readership area to vote in favor of the Marketplace Fairness Act.