Raleigh, N.C. — 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.