Our Opinion: Unfair edge for Internet retailers

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The advantages of shopping on-line are considerable in terms of convenience and access to inventory. The detriments to local retailers are considerable as well.

On-line retailers aren't going away, nor should they, but they should not have an unfair advantage over the beleaguered brick-and-mortar competition. They do as long as they are not required to collect sales taxes from customers.

In Massachusetts, on-line companies are required to collect the state's 6.25 percent sales tax if they have a physical presence in the state. On-line giant Amazon, because it has small offices in the eastern end of the state, collects sales taxes for that reason, but it is estimated that Massachusetts would reap an additional $200 million annually if it collected sales taxes on all online purchases.

"If anybody wants to fund universal prekindergarten or infrastructure investments, this is the way to do it," stated Treasurer Steve Grossman in The Boston Globe.

Proponents of a bill long stuck in Congress requiring Internet retailers to collect sales taxes want to bring it to the floor in the waning weeks of the current lame-duck session. It had passed the Senate 69-27 but House leadership then refused to take it up. Standard Republican obstructionism may keep it stuck, as allies of the mega-corporations, like Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, promise to tie the bill in knots should it re-emerge.

The small local businesses that are taking a beating from Internet sales are a critical component of the fabric of a community. They pay property taxes to fund schools and road repairs, employ local residents, support Little League teams and charities. EBay, which is a leading opponent of the congressional legislation, won't be buying uniforms for the local youth football team or doing anything else to help communities across America.

The brick-and-mortar businesses that do support communities are not asking for any breaks. They just want a level playing field against a formidable opponent. Congress should provide it by requiring on-line retailers to collect sales taxes.

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