Matthew R. Shay thinks you aren't paying enough sales tax.
Shay is the president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, which has launched a 60-day campaign for what it calls "tax fairness." He hit town recently to talk about it.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are grumbling because they must charge sales tax, but often online retailers don't have to do so. That puts traditional retailers at a disadvantage because it makes it too inviting for customers to wander around stores, decide what they want to buy and then go home and order it online without paying sales taxes - a practice they bitterly call "showrooming" at the brick-and-mortar stores.
Shay's argument is that traditional retail provides 28 million jobs and 20 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product. An industry like that, he says, deserves a little "e-fairness."
Other stats the retailers like to throw around: Retail is the No. 1 private sector employer. It "supports" one in four U.S. jobs. It generates $1.4 trillion in wages and benefits. It kicks out $2.48 trillion in total GDP "impact."
Back in 1992, when the courts signed off on sales tax breaks for the nascent Internet, e-tailing was in its infancy. With more than 8,000 taxing jurisdictions around the nation, the reasoning went, the huge task of calculating sales taxes for each one of them could snuff out a small start-up before it could get going.
Now, Shay says, technology makes it a snap to figure the sales taxes.
One bill is floating around in the U.S. Senate and two are in the House. Shay likes the Senate bill, pushed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Hearings in the House are scheduled for July, which is why Shay is doing his 60-day campaign now.
Retailers aren't pushing a new tax, Shay says. The tax already is due, but because it's up to the consumers to pay it on their own, few people do so.
"We aren't asking for any favors," Shay says. "We are just asking that you treat everybody the same way."
Read the National Retail Federation's press release here.
Read a Sun-Times story about Illinois' sales-tax law here.
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