Look, I'm generally pro-government. You know, down with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who said, "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization." And like any good leftie hippie-type, I just love kitschy Main Street shops that I'd definitely ride my bike to if it weren't so damn hot/cold/rainy/dry/breezy/whatever.
So that's reason enough to stand behind The Alliance for Main Street Fairness, an association of small-business owners traveling to Washington this week to drum up congressional support for two bills that would allow states to collect sales taxes on online purchases made outside their borders.
"It's a matter of fairness," says Luke Legate, one of several Texans in Washington on behalf of similar bills in the Senate and House that would let states to dun the Amazons and Overstock.coms of the world. Small retailers are getting shafted because, unlike many online sellers, they must collect sales taxes that loyal Texas shoppers go online to avoid. That costs the state about $600 million annually in revenue, Legate says, citing numbers from the Texas Comptroller's Office.
"Online retailers and Main Street should compete on a level playing field," he says. Local businesses "support Little League. They pay property taxes. They employ people. They support public schools."
Toss Mom's freakin' apple pie in there too, why don't you? I get it. It's about fairness, and we lefties are all about the fairness. Particularly when it comes to taxes. Other people's taxes, anyway.
Damn it. What does a pinko do around here to get a bargain?
Even some big online retailers favor some sort of national legislation, Legate says, partly because they'd rather not have 50 states hit them with different schemes. (There's also the fact that stores like Target both sell online and have retail stores in Texas, which mean they collect sales taxes, while sites like Amazon don't.) And, of course, everyone in Congress just loves the small business folk, the backbone of our nation, and sheds big ol' boo-hoos over the unfairness of the current system. Unfortunately it's a long jump from a boo-hoo to getting Congress to actually do anything, let alone anything that even smells like a tax increase.
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Which is why the two bills have been dawdling since last fall.
"We've got our work cut out for us," admits Legate, who said the delegation will be sounding out Texas Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison on supporting the measures.
Well, shit. Good luck. Go effing fairness! In the meantime, I suppose I could go ahead and file comptroller's form 01-156 and pay the taxes on that big-ass plasma television I bought last month from Amazon, but, um, I temporarily mislaid the receipt.
Besides, I've been watching a ton of television lately -- so crisp! -- and frankly, I'm not sure civilization is worth it.