Bringing the Economy Home

Some Idaho Lawmakers Want To Capitalize On Skyrocketing Internet Retail Sales

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Clearance racks at a Sears store.

Idaho lawmakers are moving forward with a measure to ensure the state’s 6 percent sales tax applies to all online purchases.  It’s called the streamlined sales tax bill.  A similar bill failed last year.

The Magic Valley Times-News reports it’s not a new tax, but most people aren’t paying it.

Idaho law already requires residents to pay the state’s 6 percent sales tax on purchases made online or from catalogs. But the state lacks a way to collect the taxes other than trusting people will pay up on their annual tax forms.

What’s the solution? Sponsors of a bill to update the tax code say joining a multi-state coalition will streamline the process of gathering sales taxes from across the country. – Times-News

The Associated Press reports there’s strong sentiment among some lawmakers that collecting sales tax on out-of-state Internet purchases will level the competitive playing field for Idaho brick-and-mortar businesses.

Still, Rep. Lenore Barrett (R-Challis) said this bill has failed multiple times over the years, and it should this year too.

“We’ve just beat the crap out of this poor horse, and thought it was dead,” she said. Barrett went on to say that she came to the Legislature to shrink government, and viewed this as an expansion instead. She also added that she was offended that Idaho is asking for taxes on goods she buys from other states.  “What did Idaho do to deserve that? Just have me as a citizen in Idaho?” Barrett said. – Times-News

The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog reports online retail sales are skyrocketing.  According to the U.S. Commerce Department, $61.8 billion of retail sales were Internet transactions in the fourth quarter of last year.

That represented a 16% increase from 2010 and accounted for 5.5% of all retail activity over the holiday period. E-commerce’s market share has soared eightfold since 1999, and even over the deep recession only experienced a brief lull not a retreat. –



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