Legislature to discuss sales tax for online sellers

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SHERIDAN — A House bill going before the Wyoming Legislature could mean Wyoming residents will pay higher prices for online purchases.

House Bill 0019, which deals with sales from remote online sellers with no physical presence in Wyoming, would require sales tax to be collected for those with either more than $100,000 of sales, or with 200 or more separate transactions within the state. Smaller sellers won’t be impacted by the bill; it is more geared toward big box stores like Amazon and Costco.

Rep. Michael Madden, R-Buffalo, said the bill, which is sponsored by the Joint Revenue Interim Committee, is an effort to appeal to taxpayer fairness. The fact that a number of remote sellers don’t have a sales tax license creates this fairness issue, as it results in an unfair price advantage over downtown businesses that are found all over the state.

“If you are in Wyoming you expect to do that as a business person,” Madden said, “you expect to have a sales tax license and pay the taxes that were collected from your customers.”

The legislation would help bring local businesses back into the competition. Madden said many times with showroom-type businesses, consumers use the physical downtown store to compare and test products or models, then order the product online to save a few dollars.

“That, to me, I don’t know about you, but that’s an indication of unfairness when that kind of thing happens,” Madden said.

Madden said that from the standpoint of the state government, the lack of sales tax from remote sellers is a drain. He said it’s estimated that without this tax, the state is missing out on $70 million to $90 million in revenue, but he said he thinks it could be even higher than that, which is appealing to Wyoming, especially now.

“It turns out we have a particular interest in that this year because if we had that $90 million,” Madden said, “we’d be able to balance our budget in the general fund instead of having to make further cuts.”

While Madden said he’s received some emails opposing the bill from those against taxes in general, past president of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Richard Garber said opposition comes with misconceptions and a misunderstanding of the bill.

The bill does not tax businesses in Wyoming making sales outside its borders, just the opposite. And Garber said he thinks this could potentially bring new businesses into Wyoming.

“Maybe we can turn this around and bring some businesses in as a result of not having sales tax on items that you sell online with your business here,” Garber said.

Garber said the process for determining and collecting the tax goes through a third party. Each seller works with a clearinghouse in its state that determines the sales tax based on the zip code of delivery, collects the tax from the seller and pays Wyoming. Those living in Sheridan County will pay the same sales tax for online purchases that they do at a downtown store.

Both Madden and Garber support the bill. While Madden, in addition to the fairness issue, said it was a simple case of what the State imposes in Wyoming and what is due to it, Garber said it’s a way to sustain Wyoming’s high quality of life.

“I live in Wyoming, I love to drive on our good roads, I love the amenities that our sales tax helps pay for,” Garber said. “So somewhere along the line if we are going to keep using and enjoying the things that we have, that sales tax pays for, I think we need to capitalize on every method we can.”

Madden said the bill was expected to be discussed during the revenue meeting yesterday.

By |January 14th, 2017|

About the Author:

Chelsea Coli joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as the county government, business and outdoors reporter. Coli has a master’s in journalism from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Before moving to Wyoming, Coli taught English through the LADO International Institute and worked as an intern and copywriter for Ruby Studio in Colombo, Sri Lanka.