Wieffering: Tax-free sales give unfair edge to online sellers

  • Article by: ERIC WIEFFERING , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 14, 2012 - 8:24 PM
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  • Comments

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ralph6767Apr. 14, 12 4:04 PM

Nice idea in principle, but making it work is a nasty task for internet merchants. The big problem is trying to figure out how much tax is actually owed as various counties and cities across the nation have special rates on top of what states charge. Then trying to figure out what is actually taxable is another huge challenge. There are hundreds of pages that detail what is and isn't taxed in Minnesota alone. See for yourself via this link to Minnesota's dept. of revenue http://taxes.state.mn.us/sales/pages/publications_fact_sheets_by_name_sales_fact_sheet_by_name.aspx Good luck multiplying this times 50. And good luck keeping current as tax laws are continuously changing! Finally, remember the additional cost of shipping tends to offset the difference in sales tax for many transactions so there's not as much of an advantage as you might think.

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reader2580Apr. 14, 12 7:14 PM

Most smaller online merchants use a third party or third party software to run their e-commerce web site. The software often can handle the sales tax calculation based on the buyer's location. There are companies out there that specialize in tax table updates. Any business that does their payroll already has to get tax table updates for their payroll periodically.

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reader2580Apr. 14, 12 7:18 PM

Amazon isn't against collecting sales tax. What Amazon is against is Amazon being singled out to collect sales tax because they are so big. Amazon has no problem collecting sales tax as long as ALL retailers online or offline are required to collect sales tax too. Amazon doesn't want to lose business to smaller retailers who might not be required to collect sales tax while Amazon is collecting sales tax.

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SLM001Apr. 14, 12 9:07 PM

How about we enact the FairTax, tax all consumption and eliminate all income taxes!

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lorentjdApr. 15, 12 1:17 AM

Taxes are only one problem for brick-n-mortar stores. I was at a store today to buy treats for our dog. The treats cost $11.99 per package. I decided to scan in the UPC on my RedLaser app and an online retailer is selling the exact same item for $6.99 (and free shipping). Because we buy these treats all of the time, I bought 15 packages of them. Will.never buy them in a brick-n-mortar store again. Thanks, RedLaser!!

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t_stevensApr. 15, 12 2:49 AM

Wieffering: Tax-free sales give unfair edge to online sellers. I say TOO BAD. State and local taxing authorities need to change their dated brick-and-mortar taxing mentality. The Best Buys of the world need to change as well.

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conbrioApr. 15, 12 7:26 AM

"Wieffering: Tax-free sales give unfair edge to online sellers. I say TOO BAD. State and local taxing authorities need to change their dated brick-and-mortar taxing mentality. "-------------------Umm, it's nice to know you oppose this, but what do you suggest? Too often there are people criticizing actions and proposals without offering alternatives, they are bereft of ideas.

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la55122Apr. 15, 12 7:29 AM

As usual there are other issues in play. Sales tax or use taxes are regressive in nature. The lower socioeconomic classes are paying a higher part of their income. So perhaps some online purchases are done to send a message to government that all sales taxes are to be avoided. Craigslist, barter, flea markets are all ways to get around the tax man. Who wants to pay tax on used items that were already taxed when sold as new?

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pitythefoolsApr. 15, 12 8:07 AM

"This has helped give rise to the practice of "showrooming": Consumers visit the store to view the product, but go online to buy it....Consumers enjoy the friction-free benefits of online shopping too much to give it up. They like being able to research and purchase exactly what they want without having to get in their cars to do so."

So which is it? Contradicting yourself in your own article belays the rest of the article. And for those who think that there are companies that can calculate sales tax for you, or junior IT people who think anyone can write a tax program, there are over 8,400 sales tax jurisdictions in the US. And every item is potentially taxed differently. In MN peanut butter is non-tax, peanut brittle is taxed. Huge companies like Taxware charge a fortune to provide those tax calculations, IF the merchant knows what category the item falls in. Rather than extending this tremendously regressive tax, the sales tax should be replaced with a progressive income tax nationwide.

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conbrioApr. 15, 12 8:52 AM

"think that there are companies that can calculate sales tax for you, or junior IT people who think anyone can write a tax program, there are over 8,400 sales tax jurisdictions in the US. And every item is potentially taxed differently."----------------------------In fact there are many programs that can do just that, just as there are many companies already complying with multi state sales taxes,claim that Walmart, Target, Sears, Home Depot can do it but Amazon cannot is bogus. The proposals are generally inclusive of statewide sales taxes and exempt local piggybacks.

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