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Most Voters Back Online Sales Tax Legislation, Survey Finds

Oct 27th 2015
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Amid continuing debate and legislative efforts about sales taxes on online purchases, a recently released poll by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) indicates that most US shoppers think online sellers should shoulder the collection and remittance of sales taxes.

According to a September survey of 1,008 US adults – 507 men and 501 women – 70 percent of respondents said they support federal legislation that would require online-only vendors to collect sales tax at the time of purchase. In addition, eight out of 10 believe collecting sales tax from online sellers at the time of purchase would be easier than the current system of self-reporting.

A majority of respondents also think it's unfair for so-called “brick-and-mortar” retailers to have to collect sales taxes while online sellers don't. The survey also revealed that 90 percent of registered voters consider local retailers “the cornerstone of their communities and essential in maintaining healthy and vibrant economies.”

“Year after year, voters continue to voice overwhelmingly strong support for federal legislation that closes the online sales tax loophole and makes sure that all retailers are free to compete for customers and sales without the federal government picking winners and losers in the marketplace,” Betsy Laird, ICSC senior vice president of global public policy, said in a prepared statement. “Americans have spoken; it's time to pass e-fairness legislation.”

Right about now is a good time to mention that the ICSC is all about those brick-and-mortar retailers. The 58-year-old organization claims more than 70,000 members in at least 100 countries that include shopping center owners, developers, managers, investors, retailers, brokers, academics, and public officials, according to its website.

“[Shopping centers] are a significant job creator, driver of [gross domestic product], and critical revenue source for the communities they serve through the collection of sales taxes and the payment of property taxes. These taxes fund important municipal services like firefighters, police officers, school services, and infrastructure like roadways and parks,” the website states. And shopping centers can be social gathering places, too.

In a June letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the ICSC indicated its support of the Remote Transactions Parity Act (HR 2775). For one reason, the legislation is based on “destination sourcing” – the buyer's location – “because from a price-comparison standpoint, that is the only way to establish a system that treats all sales the same in all 50 states.”

Since we wrote about the introduction of HR 2775 in June, the only action on the bill was its referral on July 1 to the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

The ICSC survey also revealed the following points:

  • Sixty-two percent of registered voters know that they owe sales taxes from online purchases when they file their income tax returns.
  • The self-reporting tax system has a compliance rate of virtually zero percent.
  • More than half (58 percent) of registered voters wouldn't change their online shopping as a result of what the ICSC calls “e-fairness” legislation.
  • Most respondents (66 percent) who earn at least $100,000 know that they have to report uncollected sales taxes when they file their income tax returns, compared to 55 percent of those earning less than $35,000 annually.

Related articles:

New House Bill Rekindles Debate on Online Sales Tax
Equally Equal: Why the New Internet Sales Tax Bill Works

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