In the past week, three ABA member booksellers testified in support of sales tax fairness. On Thursday, April 7, in Boston, booksellers David Didriksen of Willow Books & Cafe in Acton, Massachusetts, and Carole Horne, general manager of Harvard Book Store, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, appeared at a hearing in support of e-fairness bills, with Horne testifying. And on Tuesday, April 12, Liza Bernard of Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont, and Chris Morrow of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, testified in support of H.143. At both hearings, ABA submitted written testimony in support of the bills.
“We are grateful to the David, Carole, Liza, and Chris for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend these hearings to support sales tax fairness,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “Whether a bookseller testifies or attends a hearing in support of sales tax fairness, it makes a huge impact on legislators to see and hear from retailers who are experiencing firsthand the very real economic loss that results from this significant inequity. We also appreciate the lead that the Retailers Association of Massachusetts and the Vermont Retail Association have taken on this issue. They’ve done a tremendous job in bringing this issue to the fore.”
In Massachusetts, the Joint Committee on Revenue was considering three affiliate nexus bills: H01731, sponsored by Rep. Martin J. Walsh; S01554, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader, Sen. Steven A. Tolman; and S01450, sponsored by Sen. James B. Eldridge, as well as a bill that would bring the state into compliance with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. The affiliate nexus bills would require remote retailers that have nexus in the state through a broad network of online affiliates acting as sales agents to collect and remit sales tax to the state.
Both Didriksen and Horne told BTW via e-mail that the hearing went well. “It’s an uphill fight, but it is going well so far,” Didriksen said.
In her testimony, Horne stressed that sales tax inequity “has become such an issue that we’ve filmed a humorous video that we call ‘Don’t Be an iPhony,’ and put it up on our website. We’ve recently posted a sign in the store saying, ‘Find it here. Buy it here. Keep us here.’ We’re trying to educate people one at a time, but we need your help. It matters whether you have to pay sales tax or not…. And the fact that companies like Amazon.com and Overstock.com fight so hard to maintain this competitive advantage over us proves that they know it matters. Tax policy shouldn’t pick favorites. It’s simply an issue of fairness.”
Didriksen spoke to the media after the hearing and was featured in a video news report and accompanying article on NECN.com, “Mass. Weighs online sales tax.” The article noted that Didriksen has now become a “Beacon Hill battler for tax fairness.”
“Main Street in America is being killed today, right now, by a lot of factors, but one of the biggest is Internet sales,” Didriksen told NECN.com.
In Vermont, on Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee considered H.143, sales tax fairness legislation sponsored by Rep. Jeff Wilson. At the hearing, Bernard testified about the impact of Internet companies that do not collect sales tax had on the price perception for goods in bricks-and-mortar stores. In addition, she “explained the real cost to those of us who collect the legally mandated sales tax: staff time to track and remit, credit card processing costs that … do add up for small stores like mine.”
“All in all,” Bernard told BTW, “I am glad I was there in person.”