Don’t let Internet sales off the hook

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Mississippi legislature finally was poised to join nearly all the states that have required internet commerce companies to collect and pay sales tax, but apparently now is thinking about changing its mind.  To let these companies off the hook is a terrible decision for many reasons.

Small business is Mississippi’s leading job provider and the backbone of Mississippi’s economy, helping to subsidize the salaries of teachers and public safety officers, infrastructure improvements, and countless other state and local needs.  As internet commerce has grown, the seven percent advantage that our legislature grants to remote companies has made it difficult for local Mississippi companies to compete.

For those who purchase goods from out-of-state, to be exempt from paying sales tax is simply unfair to those who support, by choice or necessity, Mississippi businesses.  The legislature should either require all companies to collect sales tax or do away with sales tax altogether.    Everyone knows it will not do the latter.

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Of the 45 states that have a sales tax, only six, including Mississippi, presently do not collect it from online or remote companies; all the other states have come around to sales tax fairness.   Mississippi is discouraging entrepreneurship and retail business from either moving to or starting up in Mississippi.   Mississippi is also encouraging businesses, including my own – in which margins are razor-thin – to consider relocating to a more business-friendly state.

If the legislature fails now, Mississippi’s revenue erosion will continue, and we shall see more Mississippi stores shutter, malls decline, and unemployment grow.    

If legislators love business the way they so often claim to love it, they should act like it.  Please level the playing field for Mississippi business – as so many other state legislatures already have done.

Richard Howorth,

Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

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