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Loop Business Owners Call on Missouri Legislature to Enforce Sales Tax Collection from Online Merchants

Loop business owners say it's unfair that online merchants rarely collect sales tax.

"No doubt about it, Amazon is driving us out of business," said Kelly von Plonski, owner of  in the Loop at a news conference on Monday.

She said her store is hanging on by a thread, and most likely her store isn't much different from that of hundreds of businesses across the state.

Von Plonski and a handful of Loop business owners spoke out in  support of a bill that would enforce the sales tax collection from online merchants.

"This is a very important issue for us," said Mike Weiss, owner of Big Shark Bicycle Company in the Loop. "Every year we notice that Internet sales pick up a larger and larger percentage of what's sold in America."

He said it's unfair competition when his business and others in the Loop have to collect sales tax on purchases made in their stores, but online merchants rarely pay. "We're handicapped." He said at the end of the day people are going to go with the cheaper option because they want to save money.

Also on hand for the news conference were Missouri State Representatives Rory Ellinger (University City) and Margo McNeil (Florissant), who have sponsored sales tax fairness legislation.

“These sales taxes are already levied. They are not new taxes. This is an effort to recoup on assessed tax that is not being collected, and to level the playing field,” said Representative Ellinger. He estimates the state of Missouri is losing  as much as $200 million dollars a year. 

Von Plonski said Missouri business owners start at a 10 percent disadvantage and have to fight uphill from there. "We're only asking that the state legislature enforce these existing tax laws so we can fight on a level field." 

Von Plonski said her independent bookstore is struggling to succeed against huge online book warehouse organizations that do not collect or remit sales taxes.

She said "it angers me that the legislature lets huge online enterprises get away with dodging sales tax collecting responsibilities." We collect and remit sales tax to the state of Missouri. Amazon does none of these things, said von Plonski.

Sebastian Serra March 22, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Am I missing something here? I posted a similar comment on the other news article related to this. Illinois did the same thing. The result --Amazon made good on their threat to cut ties with their Illinois affiliates . So who was the loser in illinois? The businesses who acted as agents for amazon. Amazon will just find another affiliate in another state to offer products and the people in Missouri will continue to buy the products online with no sales tax applied. IMO, this bill actually is a negative to the Missouri economy. Someone please tell me if I am missing something?
3rd Ward Rogue March 22, 2011 at 05:17 PM
The governemnt is growing by leaps and bounds and people are being persuaded by these legislators that this will be good for them. They find a way to word these over-regulating bills that make them sound beneficial, while they are just snake oil. The laws are already in place but they are too expensive or difficult to enforce, now they have to pass another bill to hire more government workers to enforce a law they couldn't to begin with. As you said, Missouri will lose jobs and our government will become bigger and stronger, not the store owners that are struggling. By leveling the playing field you are not raising your own status, you are just pulling others down like businesses who work with Amazon and taxpayers. The real beneficiary is the government and they are using these struggling businesses as pawns. Take Prop. B for instance, we all want illegitimate puppy mills gone and the laws are there to do this, but are too expensive to enforce. Voters passed Prop. B with additional regulation but now they are finding that over-regulating will close over 1,000 legitimate breeders and the loss of jobs will be too devastating to some rural areas. They are now planning on repealing the bill and the expense of all of this to Missouri taxpayers is very high. Like you are warning, be careful what you wish for.

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