Congress needs to pass E-Fairness Legislation

To the Editor:

A few weeks ago, the United States House Judiciary Committee held an important hearing to address the question of online sales tax collection. It came on the heels of the Senate’s passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act last year by a wide (and bipartisan) 69-27 margin. Now, as a small business owner, I believe in free markets and a chance to compete. However, by giving online sellers a pass from collecting sales tax, the government is providing this group of retailers with an unfair advantage over my business. If the House of Representatives does not take action on the Marketplace Fairness Act to level the playing field, then it is picking winners and losers, which damages our local economies and stifles entrepreneurship and economic growth across the country.

My store repeatedly operates as a showroom to bargain shoppers who believe they are receiving the ultimate deal because they think they can shop online tax free. It’s simply not true. When an online retailer doesn’t collect the sales tax from that purchase, then the burden falls on the customer to calculate and submit the tax directly with the state. That is the law in place today. There is nothing new about paying a tax when you buy something online. You are supposed to be doing it now. The problem is that the rules surrounding who has to collect the tax from the customer aren’t keeping up with today’s retail environment. As a result, local businesses like mine pay the price. So does our community.

After 33 years as the owner of Gilbert Jewelers in Webster City, I know the importance of supporting our local economy. We hire locally-not just employees to run the store, but also contractors and vendors in the area that provide services we need. We generate tax revenues that fund essential services we rely on every day. We are also involved in the community, supporting charitable causes and community events. When’s the last time a dotcom retailer sponsored one of our little league teams? The reality is that local businesses like mine contribute in many ways to the overall health of this town.

My staff and I, and many other retailers in Webster City, have been waiting since the passage of the legislation in the Senate to see more progress. We have been waiting for a real solution to end the unfair advantage online-only sellers have over local businesses. The House Judiciary Committee has a chance to level the playing field and give stores like mine a fair chance to compete. This legislation has broad bipartisan support from local and national businesses, from community leaders and elected officials from around the country. I urge Representative Steve King and every member of the House Judiciary Committee to move this bill forward so that Congress can enact the Marketplace Fairness Act this year.

Connie Gilbert

Gilbert Jewelers

Webster City