Poll: Few like sales tax on online purchases

Posted July 1, 2014

— Most North Carolina voters oppose a federal bill that would allow online retailers to collect out-of-state sales tax, according to a poll released Tuesday by the National Taxpayers Union and the R Street Institute.

The poll, based on a telephone survey of 400 North Carolinians likely to vote in the 2014 general election, showed that 70 percent of respondents oppose the legislation, known as the Marketplace Fairness Act. Opponents say the measure would force online businesses to line the pockets of other states and face scrutiny from out-of-state auditors, while supporters of the bill contend that it levels the playing field between online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

“Across the board, there is surprisingly large opposition to changing the law to impose a sort of Internet sales tax collection burden,” said Andrew Moylan, executive director and senior fellow at the R Street Institute.

The bill has passed the U.S. Senate and is currently stalled in the U.S. House.

The push against the legislation comes mostly from political conservatives, but Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, said the poll reveals opposition to the bill from voters of varying political backgrounds and consumer habits.

“Not only those who shop online were concerned about this issue, but those who hardly ever shop online at all,” Sepp said at a Tuesday news conference. “They understand that what this amounts to is a massive expansion of tax enforcement power.”

But proponents of the legislation, who argue that it allows small brick-and-mortar businesses a fair shot at competing with online retailers, say the poll presented respondents with limited information that they say skewed the results.

“Today, the National Taxpayers Union and R Street Institute continued their ongoing efforts to distort and mislead North Carolinians about e-fairness,” said Joshua Baca, spokesman for the Alliance of Main Street Fairness. “It’s toxic and bad politics to support policies that work against the free market and put local small businesses at a disadvantage.”

State Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, spoke out against the legislation.

“As technology continues to spread, as Internet sales continue to grow, governments continue to want a bite of that growing apple,” Goolsby said.

Online retail giant Amazon began charging sales tax in North Carolina in February. Under current law, online retailers charge sales tax only in states where they have a physical presence, though larger retailers like Amazon with a national presence already collect sales tax in nearly every state.


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  • Christopher Rose Jul 1, 2014
    user avatar

    I recall when this was initially brought up back in the beginning. And congress and others Hated the idea because they were afraid of "strangling" the internet. Out of state sales tax is precisely why I don't have a local book store anymore. I thought this was a bad idea then and now that people have gotten used to it tryng to just put taxes back where they were is going to be hard. It was like those tax free back to school shopping days. Another bad give-away that was hard to get rid of. And the Bush tax cuts. Government finances would be fine now and our national debt would have been close to paid off if they had just kept the marginal rates where they were.

  • Eq Videri Jul 1, 2014
    user avatar

    This finally treats behemoth Amazon the same as local mom-and-pop retail shops, which is only fair.

  • dcampbell Jul 1, 2014

    I would love to know how the question was asked.

    From the poll announcement it was probably "Do you want to pay more taxes?"

    It probably was not "Do you think tax laws should continue to favor out-of-state retailers over local retailers?"

    The facts are undeniable, sales tax is due on online purchases - but North Carolina needs action by Congress to protect local retailers from remote retailers taking advantage of this out-dated loophole.

  • Brian Jenkins Jul 1, 2014

    View quoted thread

    But yet you belittle the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party. Weird. Ill pay all sales taxes if they repeal the income tax.

  • miseem Jul 1, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Sure. If it was available at a store here, you'd be glad to buy it here and pay sales tax with no complaint. But for some reason, buying it on line is totally different and paying sales tax is unfair. End result, you are wearing a shirt (or whatever) at your house, work, wherever, in NC. Why is how you bought it a factor in paying sales tax?

  • Andy Hairston Jul 1, 2014
    user avatar

    I'm for charging sales taxes for online purchases. It's a sale - it gets taxed. Why the difference between brick-and-mortar and online?

  • wufpaker Jul 1, 2014

    I dislike taxes as much as the next guy, but this proposal is fair - and sets a level playing field. The retail economy is shifting from bricks and mortar to online sales. If you read this forum, chances are that you've made an online purchase yourself - and bypassed a local store. I know I have. Much of the state's revenue is based on sales tax. If the sales are shifting to online, how else will the state recoup its lost taxes? This is very fair and not a case of the state going after something that is not theirs.

  • Kenny Dunn Jul 1, 2014
    user avatar

    I'm totally shocked people don't like paying taxes. Just shocked. What a silly piece.

  • Hip-Shot Jul 1, 2014

    I find that most of the time I purchase items online not because they are cheaper than brick and mortar stores, because the time you add shipping and handling they are more expensive, but rather the items are not found locally in stores. In a nutshell, the items I purchase online would be considered specialty items. This is more about bleeding citizens of additional taxes.

  • dennis8 Jul 1, 2014

    Nobody likes paying taxes. However this one is fair.