Main Street Fairness Act. Just Politics?

Main Street Fairness Act. Just Politics?

The Main Street Fairness Act is it really legislation for the “little”mom and pop stores out there competing against the big corporate internet giants? Is it a way for individual states to collect more tax? Or is it really about fair competition?

David B. Henry, ICSC chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vice Chairman of Kimco Realty Corporation has a point of view. What are your thoughts?

Photo Credit: via Flickr


Duke Long


  • The bleeding-heart angle notwithstanding (it’s garbage) the tax will not help the local vendor, it will be a huge benefit to the online giants. The added accounting and reporting that will be required will be easily absorbed by Amazon and Ebay. But in these times, when the internet has become a new frontier for budding entrepreneurs, the ruling will be devastating.

    • It would help us a great deal to have a level playing field as a brick-and-mortar store. Why is it ok that my customers get an 8% “discount” by shopping out of state? We lose sales all the time. The accounting side is a pain in the ass no matter how few states you have to pay out. That is all part of being an entrepreneur. Where is the “bleeding-heart” angle you are talking about? I run a gay, illegal-immigrant abortion clinic for terrorists, btw.

      • I find it suspect that the best defense of the bill is that it is hurting the “mom & pop” business. This is not about mom & pop since they don’t have the buying power to compete on any field with the mega-stores. If in fact mom & pop is the cause du jour, then regulate Wal-Mart, Target, etal. They’re killing/killed the mom & pop. That bleeding heart angle.

        What you are saying then is that by not charging tax online, I am getting a discount. And I agree, that’s not fair. And, I’m no opposed to the tax, I’m opposed to the taxed. Taxing every consumer purchase will hurt the new mom & pops, the new internet entrepreneurs, and only strengthen the hold that Amazon has on our shopping experience. Rather, levy the tax from the wholesaler to the retailer. Simple enough for the IRS to sort our using TaxID’s differing for online retailers. This way, smaller online merchants, who generally buy from only a few sources but sell, or hope to sell to thousands of customers, aren’t burdened by excessive paperwork and reporting, that burden falls back to the larger wholesaler who is more likely to be able to deal with it.

        • It is not a level playing field because out of state merchants don’t use facilities
          if you have a physical presence in a state you pay taxes and you get services such as water, fire, police, transit, schools, the retailers pay and get advantages, the online merchant out of state does not pay and doesn’t receive
          ,so where is the disadvantage?

  • Fact is that online retailers have a competitive advantage in passing the burden of reporting sales taxes to consumers for online purchases. This is, in effect, a discount “offered” for buying a product online vs. in a brick-and-mortar store. This is a simple matter of “basic fairness,” and in fact is merely a collection issue vs. a new tax imposed as Henry states – taxes are due regardless of a store’s physical presence in the state in which their customers reside. So, the cause here is as basic as quelling the tax evasion which stems from a purchaser either (1) not knowing that sales tax is due and reportable, or (2), knowledge of said tax but non-payment out of belief that the law will not be enforced.

    Those opposed claim that enforcement will impose disproportionate collection burdens on small (Internet) retailers who cannot absorb the collection costs like online giants can as Bob points out below. That said, the proposed “Small Seller Exemption” should level the playing field in this regard.

    So, what am I missing?

  • I live on the border, near Illinois and in Wisconsin. Illinois passed such a law, which required many online companies to leave the State. Companies such as Sears, had to pay sales tax as they had a physical presence in the state, which left them at a competitive disadvantage. I even assisted one company in coming to Wisconsin. What many online retail companies will tell you is that they want a level playing field, period. That means we need something akin to the Main Street Fairness program.

    Let’s take the tax issue away for a minute, though it is a huge issue. Taxes have become an obscenity to some. But I digress…. Let’s call this a “level playing” field concept. We as commercial real estate professionals would scream if our transactions were taxed differently than residential, somewhat similar principal at work here.

    Personally, we should then extend the “level playing” field concept to countries we do business with. It is hard to compete against countries that don’t have unemployment taxes, worker’s comp costs, social security, medicare, lax pollution controls, etc.. I believe in fair competion, across the board. We don’t have that today in many cases, and we all pay the price in the end, some way, some how…

    • I don’t see the issue, taxes would probably be leveled in all states, its a privacy issue, the customer does not want the government to track purchases, so retailers are pushing for companies out-of-state to collect the tax, however retailers and brick and mortars don’t tell you the whole story , just as politicians have talking points, a retailer benefits and uses city services, if there is a fire , they will call the local fire department, the retailer has an advantage of having a physical presence in which folks can easily return items,check out,etc

      The retailers and brick and mortars basically want to put out of state merchants out of business by requiring them to pay their taxes, if I ship you a product from california to new york , should i pay your school or transportation taxes , probably the latter federally administrated, maybe but not your police,fire, or even a sales tax for your local rec facility.

  • I keep saying this. Someone needs to start an ADP for small businesses to collect and report sales taxes. I don’t understand why some retailers hit me for tax, and some don’t. If it can be (and is) done, then whats the friggin problem? I do feel that online retailers should pay sales taxes. However, going after Amazon is a stupid, stupid idea. Let, make things even more simple, each state has a flat internet tax, you report sales per zip code and the taxes are distributed down with the state taking their cut, then the smaller areas getting there and so on. This is literally a painfully simple idea to implement and the company that does sales tax processing and reporting will make a mint.