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Marketplace fairness act wrongly puts burden on small business

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Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate easily passed legislation that would legally compel Internet retailers to collect sales taxes for state and local government. Known as the Marketplace Fairness Act, the bill would give states the power to force online retailers with more than $1 million in annual out-of-state sales to collect sales taxes from all customers and remit those taxes back to state and local governments. 

The talking points behind this idea are that everyone should be subjected to the tax to ensure that strictly online retailers cannot undercut local stores and business. That seems noble, but the truth is that government does not want to miss out on revenue. If our elected leaders were serious about helping brick-and-mortar stores compete with Amazon and eBay, they would jettison the sales tax altogether. Retailers — at every level — would rather not deal with it and consumers certainly do not want to pay it. This is just the latest attempt by government leaders to turn back the hands of time by using antiquated methodology to deal with a contemporary issue. The Internet has given consumers enormous power. Comparing prices is as easy a few mouse clicks, and smart shoppers are invariably going to seek out the best deal.

Rather than do the simple thing that makes it easier for everyone, the Senate has passed a bill (one which President Barack Obama has blessed) that does the exact opposite. 

Unlikely though it may be, if this piece of legislation makes it out of the U.S. House, what are the consequences? Would an online retailer be subject to an avalanche of audits from state and local governments around the country? 

That might not be a problem from huge corporations like Overstock.com, but what about local small businesses like Blue Smoke Salsa in Ansted or Holl's Swiss Chocolates in Wood County? Who is going to enforce this? Has anyone considered these questions? 

It is incredibly frustrating that increasing taxes is the only way our elected leaders know how to deal with financial matters. When West Virginia families are facing a budget shortfall, they gather around the kitchen table and find a way to make it work. It's not easy, but it is reality. Why do our leaders in Washington refuse to abide by those same rules? We get plenty of lip service from both sides of the aisle about government living within its means, but that could not be farther from the truth.