Chicago Tribune editorial to Congress: Stop the insanity, pass federal online sales tax legislation

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune: Close the sales tax loophole

A great editorial in the Chicago Tribune offers a well-reasoned argument for the Main Street Fairness Act (although it isn’t mentioned by name.) In discussing California’s recent sales tax legislation and Amazon’s response to it, the author makes a clear case for federal, rather than state, legislation:

Amazon argues that only the federal government can set rules governing interstate commerce … and it has a point. That’s why this gigantic loophole, this gross unfairness to local stores everywhere, needs to be closed by Congress.

As our regular readers know, we completely agree, and it seems that more and more media outlets are coming to the same conclusion. We’ve blogged recently about editorials in the Washington Post, the Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA), the Baltimore Sun, and the Mississippi Pressand we expect more and more editorials in favor of federal legislation will appear in the days to come.

What we haven’t seen in other editorials, however, is how the lack of online sales tax collection has affected our local communities, which this Chicago Tribune editorial explores:

City neighborhoods and suburban towns were built around retail districts that are now becoming obsolete. In-store sales of food, clothing and just about anything that can fit into a car trunk have moved off to the big-box discounters. City planners and community development types scramble to fill the void, but how many fitness centers, nail salons and storefront churches does a community need?

Vacant stores are a double-whammy because they also pay almost no property taxes. Nor do they help pay for live entertainment at the annual Sidewalk Sale, or pay into the streetscape improvement fund or sponsor your kids’ Little League teams.

. . .

At last count, Illinois was losing an estimated $153 million annually in unpaid sales and “use” taxes due to online purchases. This for a state that has $4.5 billion in overdue bills. This for a state that just cut funds to provide decent burials for the indigent and to test public school kids to find out if they’re learning to write.

Of course, there’s no going back to the days before online shopping, nor would most of us want to. But the current situation is untenable.

The editorial ends with by calling Congress to action:

In Washington, Republicans and Democrats are getting down to the fine strokes about what programs to cut and what loopholes to close. President Barack Obama says “everything” needs to be on the table.

By everything I trust he’s including the online sales tax scam. It’s a loophole that’s only going to get bigger. It’s grossly unfair to local, taxpaying, Little League-sponsoring stores. 

Hear, hear!

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