Chesterton Tribune

Web vs local: Sales tax disparity hurts Indiana businesses, costs state 200 million in lost revenue

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Indiana State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville—and president of the national Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board—is urging Indiana’s Congressional delegation to support the recently introduced federal Main Street Fairness Act aimed at allowing local retailers to compete more effectively against out-of-state Internet sellers.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Kenley also wants state lawmakers to agree to use the nearly $200 million in additional revenue the state would receive from the passage of the federal legislation to eliminate Indiana’s inheritance tax and reduce others, so the Main Street Fairness Act is not seen as a tax increase on Hoosiers.

“Hoosier bricks-and-mortar businesses are at competitive disadvantages with online retailers who often do not collect sales taxes on Internet purchases, costing our state as much as $200 million annually,” Kenley said in a statement released on Thursday. “Though consumers are required to report and pay a ‘use tax’ on Internet purchases when they file their taxes each year, many unknowingly fail to do so, costing Indiana and other states substantial revenue—an estimated $11.4 billion nationwide each year.”

“A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, known as the Quill decision, determined retailers are not required to collect sales taxes in states where they do not have physical locations unless mandated by Congress,” the statement said. “As a result, many consumers visit a store to compare or test products, but then make their purchases online—often avoiding payment of sales taxes.”

“If enacted, the Main Street Fairness Act would create a uniform sales-tax collection system ensuring all businesses—both online and brick-and-mortar retailers—collect uniform sales tax for purchases,” the statement added. “The act would also relieve consumers of the legal burden to report to state tax departments the required sales tax they owe for online purchases.”

“I am asking our congressional delegation to support a modern, streamlined, pro-business initiative that will help our thousands of retailers who are being discriminated against under the current policy,” Kenley said. “This is not a new tax but one that is already owed and not being collected. With sales tax serving as Indiana’s largest source of revenue, our K-12 schools, higher education institutions, public safety and other essential state services are hit the hardest by the current system. It’s time we level the playing field for our local businesses and remove this unfair burden from Hoosier consumers.”

Kenley noted that the largest online retailer in the United States—Amazon.com Inc.—recently stated in a letter to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., author of the legislation, that the company supports a simple, nationwide system of state and local sales-tax collections evenhandedly applied to all sellers, no matter their business model, location or level of remote sales.

Kenley said the Main Street Fairness Act is also supported by the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, International Council of Shopping Centers, and the United States Conference of Mayors as well as by state and local retail merchant groups across the country.

The Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board oversees and makes updates to the Streamline Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which is a comprehensive, uniform, simplified approach to sales and use tax collections adopted by 24 states, including Indiana. For more information on the agreement visit www.strealinedsalestax.org

 

Posted 8/19/2011