If basketball were governed by a scoring system that lets one team score two points for each basket it sinks while the other team is only allowed to score 10 percent less for each basket, the world of sports would be up in arms. Fans would be crying, “Foul!” The rule might generate boycotts, investigations, Congressional hearings and intervention by lawmakers.
Yet, for much too long the same unfair “scoring” system has existed for hometown businesses in states that levy sales taxes. Brick-and-mortar businesses have to pay them; businesses that sell merchandise only on the Internet don’t. That means Internet retailers can charge lower prices while avoiding sales taxes.
Consumers, ever on the lookout for the cheapest deal, have become accustomed to going into hometown stores, talking to knowledgeable retailers, examining products, then leaving and ordering items from the cheapest online retailer they can find.
Retailers in the Sun Valley area are familiar with customers who purchase skis, boots, boards and other merchandise online at prices local retailers can’t match, in part, because the retailers must collect sales taxes. The same customers sometimes ask local retailers to mount bindings, fit boots or appraise items and are “offended” when local retailers ask a higher price for the service than they would levy if the customer had bought the items from them.
The real offense here is the law that allows this grievous disparity in taxation.
Idaho Republican Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo will have a chance to even the playing field by voting in favor of the Marketplace Fairness Act next week. It would leave it up to the states whether to levy taxes on online sales, but it would open a door that’s been sealed shut for too long. The senators should rush to right this wrong.