FAIR: Over the past couple of years, the Republican-dominated Missouri Legislature has warmed to the idea that it is unfair to local mom-and-pop retail stores that big Internet giants such as Amazon offer lower prices in part by avoiding state sales taxes.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court added some wind to the sails of that movement.
The court declined to hear a case out of New York where Amazon had challenged a state law requiring Internet outlets to charge state sales taxes even if they didn’t have a physical presence in the state. Both Amazon and Overstock.com asked the court to overturn the appeals court ruling that upheld the law.
In refusing to take the case, the Supreme Court overruled its own 20-year precedent and gave a lot of ammunition to states such as Missouri that have taken steps to even the playing field and increase state revenue at the same time.
This year, Missouri lawmakers applied the state sales tax law to those Internet companies that used affiliates in the state to help them advertise their products. Amazon responded by cutting the affiliates off, to avoid the tax.
It would still be best if the U.S. House followed the lead of the U.S. Senate and passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, to make it easier for Internet stores to comply with a patchwork of state sales tax laws. In the meantime, Missouri should protect brick-and-mortar stores and do more to make sure the Amazons of the world are already paying the sales taxes on the state’s books.
— Tony Messenger