Letter: Require online retailers to collect sales tax

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I own Johnson’s Sporting Goods, in Brunswick, Portland and Rockland, and I am fed up with subsidized and predatory pricing of online competitors who don’t collect sales tax. Our elected leaders should close this loophole.

Local shops are the heart and soul of communities across Maine. But every day I go to work, it’s guaranteed that a giant online retailer like Amazon will undercut me. Because they don’t have to collect sales taxes, their prices appear – falsely –to be better than those of traditional local retailers like me.

As Maine-owned businesses lose sales to these out-of-state giants, real Mainers and their families suffer as traffic to local shops dwindles and jobs evaporate. The state loses out from uncollected sales tax online, and lower income and business tax receipts from struggling local economies. Our communities would do much better economically if Congress corrected this flawed tax system, and leveled the playing field so that every business, gargantuan or tiny, fulfilled equitable tax responsibilities.

This is a problem not just for businesses, but for customers, too. Most people don’t know that if you shop online at Amazon, for instance, you are required by law to report all purchases at tax time, and then send the sales tax to the state.

The Marketplace Fairness Act in the U.S. Senate brings fairness back to the retail world by giving Maine the power to require online retailers to collect and remit sales taxes. Sens. Collins and Snowe should give this bill their vigorous support.

Jennifer Johnson