The Marketplace Fairness Act whizzed through the United States Senate by a 69-27 vote Monday. The bill would allow states to collect sales tax on Internet purchases. That is a policy good, sensible, fair and evenhanded.
Those qualities may not count for much in the House of Representatives, where the never-ever-vote-for-a-tax mindset has excessive influence. If the online sales tax dies as many expect, it will continue to be federal policy that mainstreet retailers be forced to collect taxes that their online competitors are not. That puts bricks-and-mortar stores at an automatic price disadvantage of at least 8 percent in this state, often more. That is a tax burden selectively imposed, and unfair on its face.
They call it a tax hike. It’s not. It’s merely online retailers collecting a tax their customers already owe, just like other stores. The online merchants are out of state, and don’t benefit from the taxes paid, they say. That’s not the point. The tax is owed and paid by the customer, not the store that collects it. It is unfairly complicated, they say. With the software in this day and age, with some online retailers collecting sales tax every second of the day, that argument no longer works, and stores with less than $1 million in sales are exempt. And, the weakest of arguments, the measure will enrich states that don’t deserve enrichment. That’s not even a federal concern. Since when does Congress write state tax policy?
It would be better for the House to jettison its tax paranoia and seek fairness and uniformity. That means passing the Marketplace Fairness Act.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.