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Brick-and-mortar retailers pay taxes. Online retailers often don't. That scenario along with a recent story about the online taxation debate raging in California led to the following reader comments about the relative fairness of sales tax rules in our increasingly digital world.
“I do believe that there should be a level playing field, and now is the time, given the state of the economy. Governments are going to have to get more tax revenues somewhere, and this is a relatively reasonable and painless source. I particularly like the fact that it is a tax on consumption -- in all ways more fair than a tax on income. The major problem with taxing online sales, of course, is the fact that every governmental entity in the U.S. apparently has a different rate and structure. It would be virtually impossible for an Internet retailer to manage that. As it is, it's impossible for us to even get it right at the local level, as everywhere we deliver seemingly has a different set of rules and an ever-changing tax rate. My suggestion would be to charge a reasonable, uniform tax determined by the powers that be (perhaps the ICC), regardless of customer location. That would vastly simplify collection/distribution/payment/audit functions, and might even lead to a uniform sales tax structure at the state and municipal levels. That would be a godsend to all of us in the retail business.”
— C.K. Oram
"It is not fair to the people with a major brick-and-mortar investment. We need to have a level playing field."
— Duane Lambrecht
"There should be one average rate per state that can be changed on a uniform date, say July 1 of each year. Internet retailers should remit to one central payment location with electronic info for each state. This would take away many of the problems for small Internet retailers."
— Augustan Kittson