You don’t have to look far in Sheridan to see that Internet sales are hurting local businesses.
Take a walk up Main Street and you’ll see a few empty store fronts — not many, but they are there.
Stop into any downtown business and the owners will tell you that more people would buy their goods if it weren’t for the Internet.
Granted, Sheridan has other issues too — such as losing consumers to places like Billings which has no sales tax. But, groups such as the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce are trying to combat that issue with their “shop local” campaign.
Last year, Internet sales in the U.S. totaled $226 billion, up nearly 16 percent from the previous year, according to Commerce Department estimates.
If the Internet retailers had less of an advantage, local shops might be able to capture more of the marketplace.
This is why the Marketplace Fairness Act has the potential to do a lot of good here in Wyoming and more specifically here in Sheridan.
The bill would empower states to require online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes for purchases made over the Internet. The sales taxes would be sent to the states where a shopper lives.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is the bill’s main sponsor.
Currently, Internet sellers must collect state sales taxes on online sales only if the seller has a physical presence — like a store, or distribution center — in the state.
According to Enzi’s website, the legislation would close the online sales tax loophole, bring sales tax laws up-to-date and level the playing field for businesses. To give an example, forcing Internet sellers to charge sales tax would eliminate the 6 percent price advantage, Sheridan’s local sales tax rate, online sellers have in the local marketplace.
Actions should be taken that could help our small businesses and keep more money in the Sheridan economy, while simultaneously boosting our state’s sales tax revenues.
The U.S. Senate is expected to take a final vote on the bill May 6 before the legislation moves on to the House.
The face of business has changed and while local businesses still need to work hard to compete in terms of pricing, customer service and merchandise availability, the argument that the tech sector still needs a helping hand is no longer a valid one. Let’s level the playing field.