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Will An Internet Sales Tax Change How You Shop?





After a rocky beginning to the relationship, I've grown to appreciate Amazon.com. For the most part, the online retailer still boasts the best prices, shipping can be free, and if your purchases are delivered to New Jersey or one of several other states, Amazon doesn't add sales tax to the purchase.

Lobbyists that represent all retailers, almost all of which are  not Amazon and other smaller online businesses, see the avoidance of sales tax as unfair competition. Under current law, online retailers only charge sales tax when the company has a physical presence - a warehouse or an office - in the same state as the buyer (or recipient of the delivery). The issue of sales tax is one for the states and cities.

Brick-and-mortar stores are already at a disadvantage. They have to pay for retail infrastructure, like storefronts and employees to manage and sell products in those stores. With higher costs, stores with physical locations need to sell their products at a higher price to maintain profits. From a shopper's perspective, especially a frugal-minded shopper who shops around for the best price, brick-and-mortar stores need to price more competitively. These old-fashioned retailers need to adapt to a changing environment if they want to be profitable and survive. That's free-market capitalism.

The proposed law will change the rule. Any business with more than $1 million in annual sales will need to charge sales tax for every customer who lives in a state that has a sales tax - all but five. Each business will need to know how to calculate that correct sales tax for each customer. That's easy enough for a company like Amazon, but for a family business that has taken its shop online only to see viral success, this could be a burden. Trying to determine the correct sales tax for a delivery in New York makes business owners cringe thanks to the variety of tax rates on the local level, within the same ZIP code, and a small business will not be equipped to handle this.

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