Our View: Net sales tax law needed

Friday , February 28, 2014 - 11:44 AM

Editorial Board, Standard-Examiner

It's long past time for Utah to have an effective, fair measure in garnering sales tax on Internet businesses that conduct trade in our state. One Utah legislator, state Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, plans to introduce a bill that requires online retailers with business relationships here to collect sales taxes, both state and local.

In our opinion, Harper's bill, or something that mirrors it, needs to be passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert. At one time in the past, we opposed collecting sales tax on online sales. We appreciated the libertarian aspect of the still-young Internet sales mechanism. But Net sales have become ubiquitous and ever-growing, and it's time for it to play by equal economic rules.

This has become an issue of fairness and revenue. Brick-and-mortar stores in Utah have always been required to collect sales tax. That burden needs to be shared by online players such as Overstock.com, Amazon.com, and others. Utah's current law, which asks consumers to note online purchases and pay taxes through income tax filing, is a poor method of collecting.

Also, as state Sen. Harper notes, collecting online sales taxes in Utah through his proposal could add as much as $120 million to our state's coffers.

Online sellers who argue they should be exempt because a "physical presence" doesn't exist in Utah are being disingenuous. Commerce moves through their state. Utahns spend money on products that are shipped here. These merchants have business dealings here, period.

The Utah bill is a means to gather Net sales taxes in the state and provide a level playing field for commerce. Until the U.S. Congress can pass a bill that gathers Internet sales taxes across the nation, we need a solution here. It's fiscally unsound not to have one.

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