On sales tax fairness, Congress alone can finish the job

  • Article by: BRUCE NUSTAD
  • Updated: August 5, 2013 - 9:11 AM

No less a tax foe than Arthur Laffer says taxing online sales would boost prosperity.

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Minnesota’s retail economy is important — 788,000 jobs depend on it. But many of those jobs are at risk because of a decades-old loophole that gives out-of-state, online-only retailers an artificial advantage over retailers in our communities. This is a problem that has plagued Minnesota retailers of all sizes, costing us local jobs and economic growth.

In May, following years of bipartisan Internet sales tax collection work by the Minnesota Retailers Association, the Legislature passed and Gov. Mark Dayton signed a new law designed to compel online-only retailers doing business in Minnesota to play by the same rules as local retailers.

But to truly close this loophole and restore basic free-market competition, we need Congress to act.

Some online retailers have made the business decision to sever relationships with Minnesota business partners in order to avoid collecting sales tax on transactions here. Many Minnesota Retailers Association members offer options for businesses dropped from affiliate programs. However, the long-term solution to this problem was endorsed by Amazon in its notice to affiliates ending their relationships — enactment of the federal Marketplace Fairness Act.

The Marketplace Fairness Act, already passed by the U.S. Senate but awaiting action in the U.S. House, represents tax reform that will be good for Minnesota’s retail diversity and our economy. It will end special treatment in the tax code for online retailers and give all businesses a chance to compete on price in a free market.

In a recently unveiled study, former Reagan administration economist Arthur Laffer emphasizes this important step in tax reform as “giving states the power to require online-only retailers to collect sales taxes as part of a transition to a more progrowth tax structure.”

Laffer — famously no fan of taxes — makes the conservative case for closing loopholes and lowering tax rates to spur economic activity and job growth.

Laffer’s study examines potential economic growth resulting from passing the Marketplace Fairness Act, concluding that Minnesota alone could see 24,760 new jobs by 2022 after closing the online sales tax loophole and allowing the state to lower tax rates.

And the Marketplace Fairness Act isn’t just good for Minnesota. Laffer projects an increase in the nation’s prosperity — 1.5 million new jobs in the next 10 years. That adds up to more than $563 billion in added gross domestic product.

Minnesota has done what it can at the state level to help our Main Street retailers. To finish the job, we need the U.S. House of Representatives to act. Laffer has provided a road map to prosperity for our lawmakers: close loopholes, lower tax rates and restore the free market.

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Bruce Nustad is president of the Minnesota Retailers Association.

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