When online sales tax means less income tax

July 18, 2013
Art Laffer

Art Laffer

Today’s issue of USA Today has an interesting piece by Art Laffer on how changes to the tax code can lead to economic growth. His main suggestion? Close the online sales tax loophole.

He writes:

Because state sales taxes generally have fewer loopholes and lower rates — and therefore have a lesser impact on growth and employment — pro-growth policies should favor sales over income taxes where possible.

The governors of Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine, and Ohio are already planning to put this idea into action.

If the Marketplace Fairness Act passes and these states are allowed to require online retailers to collect sales tax, the governors say, they’ll cut income taxes by an equal amount. So if online sales tax generates, say, $1 million in revenue, the cut in income taxes will equal $1 million in revenue.

There are multiple benefits to this approach, for both small businesses and taxpayers. First, it helps out the mom-and-pop businesses on Main Street, which are having a hard time competing with online retailers who don’t have to collect sales tax. The Marketplace Fairness Act levels the playing field by requiring all retailers to play by the same tax rules.

At the same time, it’s a win for taxpayers, who won’t see any increases in their overall tax bills.

For those who worry that enforcement of online sales tax will lead to more government spending as state and local governments see tax revenue rise, there’s another benefit: Since these states won’t see an overall change in their tax revenue, there’s no opportunity for increased spending.

And Laffer offers solid statistics on how online sales tax will help grow the economy:

Gross state product would increase from 1.2% in Alaska to 4.6% in Washington state over 10 years. States would see jobs created, anywhere from about 2,000 in Vermont to more than 180,000 in California. Gross domestic product would grow by more than $563 billion, creating 1.5 million jobs nationwide.

We think this idea is a win for everyone, especially in more conservative states that want to support local small businesses and avoid more government spending at the same time.

Of course, it’s dependent on the passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act. We hope that Congress—especially the representatives from Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine, and Ohio—is listening.