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Internet Sales Tax Bill Dies In Committee, Local Business Owner Speaks Out

A bill to put an internet sales tax in place for Idahoans who purchase goods outside the state died in a House committee, but the debate is not over yet.

Online shopping is convenient, especially when we don’t have to pay the 6-percent Idaho sales tax.

Local business owners say competing with those kinds of savings can hurt.

“We’ll give a price, and when all is said and done, the customers usually ask, ‘Does that include the sales tax?’ And we have to say, ‘No, we charge 6-percent sales tax.’ And 90 percent of the time that actually kills the sale,” explained George Casanova, who owns and manages Big O Tires in Idaho Falls.

Casanova had been working with Rep. Jeff Thompson, R – Idaho Falls, to get that bill passed.

“A lot of people buy tires online, and then they take them to Big O to have them put on,” Thompson said. “They need to sell products and sell tires in order to remain a viable business.”

Unfortunately for Casanova and Thompson, the bill did not make it out of committee, dying with a 9-to-9 vote.

“I don’t know what else I can do,” Casanova said. “I can’t drop 6, 7, 10 percent on prices. The margins just aren’t there.”

“It’s an unfair playing field [for local businesses],” Thompson said.

Those against the bill say consumers already pay enough taxes.

“When you pass that tax, you’re taking $35 million out of the economy,” said Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the only person to testify against the bill. “Why would you want to do that? A tax on consumers would impact this economic recovery.”

At the end of the day, Casanova believes that the consumer might not be saving any money at all when they shop online.

“(If a customer buys a tire online), I have absolutely no responsibility to that customer,” Casanova said. Whereas, if that customer buys the tires from us, I do have responsibility and I do take care of it over-and-above.”

More than a dozen states currently impose an online sales tax. Several more states have similar legislation pending.

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