April 26, 2013

Online sales tax poised for Senate passage

But a proposal by Maine's senators to give retailers like L.L. Bean more time to comply with the new law appears to be left in limbo.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Joe Perron prepares packages to be shipped at the L.L. Bean warehouse in Freeport. States could force Internet retailers to collect sales taxes under a bill that passed a test vote in the Senate. Bean and other retailers hope for more time to comply.

Press Herald file photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

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A major complicating factor for retailers is that tax laws vary dramatically by state and even by locality. For instance, athletic shoes are taxed at a different rate from walking shoes in some states but there are no uniform, nationwide definitions for products.

"We might sell something that we consider to be casual clothing and some states might consider it to be athletic wear, and that will change from state to state," Beem said.

In Maine, groups such as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Association of Maine have endorsed the measure. While Amazon.com, the nation's largest online retailer, supports the bill, eBay has launched a campaign to oppose it.

Among those who oppose the bill is Travis Adams, whose Hudson, N.H.-based business, Whaddy.com, reprocesses and sells items returned to Amazon and other retailers.

Adams said his company has six employees and is on track to surpass $1 million in sales this year. While that may seem like a large number to some people, Adams said, businesses such as his have such slim margins that it often translates into little, if any, profit.

Requiring him to start a tax collection system will only shrink those margins and hurt his company's ability to grow, he said.

"Really, it's unfair to all small businesses," Adams said in a phone interview. "It would require all of the businesses to become tax collectors for all of these other states, and that's a tough thing for a small business to do." 

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

kmiller@mainetoday.com

On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

 

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