April 22, 2013

Maine, others may soon get to tax Web sales

A bill that could mean millions in revenue for Maine gains support, backed by the state's two senators.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Taxing online sales

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"We do not oppose the legislation that is being considered," said Carolyn Beem, spokeswoman for LL Bean. "We are prepared to (collect taxes) at the same time that all other remote sellers are required to do so."

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Johnson said her stores are at a disadvantage because they compete against much larger retailers that can buy in bulk, and those retailers don't charge sales taxes. The result, she said, is that her store has become "a showroom" for some buyers.

"They touch it, feel it and then go online and buy it," Johnson said. "Everybody is trying to save a penny. However, the showroom where they went and tried it on may not be there in the future."

Not everyone agrees that Congress should authorize states to collect additional taxes.

"Higher taxes right now are not needed in this economy," said J. Scott Moody, CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative think tank. Moody said Mainers are tempted to shop online or in New Hampshire because Maine's taxes are too high.

"As a state, I would say we need to address the high tax burden," Moody said.

The issue often falls less on party lines than on geographic ones. Collins, a Republican, and King, an independent, are co-sponsors of the Senate bill.

"The Marketplace Fairness Act is about just that, fairness," King said in a prepared statement. "A small 'mom and pop' business shouldn't be at a disadvantage to large online retailers who do not have to levy sales taxes in states where they don't have a physical presence."

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Republican Gov. Paul LePage -- a former general manager of the Marden's retail chain -- also support allowing states to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases. A spokesman for Rep. Mike Michaud said he is still reviewing the issue.

New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen oppose the bill, saying it would burden retailers in states that don't charge sales taxes.

Both fought unsuccessfully to slow the fast-tracked bill, which bypassed the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, an opponent whose state has no sales tax.

"I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to stop this bill, which should go through the committee process and be revealed for what it is -- a massive power grab that will turn online business owners into tax collectors for other states," Ayotte said in a prepared statement.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

 

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Today's poll: Taxing online sales

Should states have more authority to require online merchants to collect sales tax from their customers?

Yes

No

View Results