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Fight over internet sales tax continues in Washington and western Virginia

By Joe Dashiell, jdashiell@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jul 18 2013 07:13:34 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 18 2013 08:19:40 PM EDT

Retailers in southwestern Virginia say the government is picking winners and losers, when it gives internet businesses a pass on collecting sales tax. They continue to fight for the Marketplace Fairness Act, legislation they say would level the playing field.

SALEM, Va. -

The economy has taken a toll on businesses like R. M. Johnson & Sons in Salem.
But Jane Johnson says there's something else. She also sees potential customers use her jewelry store as a showroom for their internet purchases.

"And that has affected my ability to hire staff," she told WDBJ7. "I'm still very busy, but I can't staff the numbers of people that I once could and I would like to get back to that and be able to employ more folks."

Black Forest Gifts in Roanoke County sells its cuckoo clocks to customers around the world. Owner Denise Durham argues that a patchwork of state laws will make it a bookkeeping nightmare to collect sales tax on every purchase.

But other business leaders, government officials and small business owners cite a new study that says requiring companies to collect sales tax on internet purchases will create 14-thousand jobs in Virginia over the next ten years

Mike Altizer is Chairman of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. "There shouldn't be winners. There shouldn't be losers, depending on whether you want to buy it locally or whether you're going to buy it online," he said.

"The online only folks have had this advantage for gosh, ten, fifteen years," said Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce President Joyce Waugh, "so it's just time.  And I think the technology's in place. It's just a matter of making the decision and then making that work."