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Virtually untaxed: Marketplace Fairness Act targets online sales

Congress pondering measure that would virtually eliminate the ability of consumers to avoid sales taxes when making online purchases.
by Brianna Bailey Modified: April 27, 2013 at 1:38 am •  Published: April 29, 2013

Online retailers fight back

Internet retailers claim that requiring them to collect sales tax for the states would force them into a complicated maze of the thousands varying sales tax rates set by local governments across the country.

Like most Internet retailers, Oklahoma City-based American Precious Metals Exchange, or APMEX, which touts itself as one of the world's largest online precious metals dealers, collects sales tax only in states where it has a physical presence — Oklahoma and New York.

APMEX began a partnership with eBay last year to become the auction website's official bullion seller. eBay is one of the Marketplace Fairness Act's biggest opponents and eBay CEO John Donahoe has emailed millions of the site's users asking for support.

The Marketplace Fairness Act would require the company to comply with sales tax rules for thousands of tax jurisdictions across the country, said Michael Haynes, APMEX CEO.

“It's an unbelievably daunting to virtually impossible task,” Haynes said “In some states, the tax rate is different in every county or city — where is the fairness in that?”

Haynes suggests that states look at raising income or property taxes instead of forcing online retailers to collect sales tax to fill their coffers.

“I don't really have a solution at the moment — but something needs to be done without states reaching outside of their borders,” he said.

Oklahoma City resident Joe Adamson, an eBay certified education specialist who maintains the e-commerce blog, calls the Marketplace Fairness Act the “Marketplace Unfairness Act.”

He believes the legislation would create barriers for small online businesses like eBay sellers from expanding their presence for fear of having to comply with complex new sales collection rules.

The bill in its current form would allow small online retailers — those with less than a $1 million in annual sales — to avoid having to collect sales tax.

Small retailers may look to make just below $1 million in sales to avoid the sales tax trigger, because it would be too burdensome to keep up with sales tax collections for multiple states, Adamson said.

“It creates artificial barriers.” Adamson said. “If they are doing more than $1 million a year, the way they are going to respond to this particular issue is that they are going to dump two employees and sell $950,000 a year — when it gets to that point, they will just turn the spigot off.”

by Brianna Bailey
Business Writer
Brianna Bailey has lived in Idaho, Germany and Southern California, but Oklahoma is her adopted home. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and has worked at several newspapers in Oklahoma and Southern...
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It's money that the consumers already owe, so why wouldn't you just shift the burden of payment from the consumers to the sellers.”

Morgan Harris,
Green Bambino owner


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