For the past few years, the Missouri Legislature has been working on a way to narrow the gap between online and local sales. While I realize there is a certain amount of flexibility in buying things through an online retailer, when people stop going to local stores, we immediately see the effects. To me, there has been no better demonstration of this than the past year.
To this end, our path toward a solution led us to Senate Bill 153. This legislation forces out-of-state online retailers to charge the same sales tax Missouri businesses are required to pay. It evenly applies the rules to everyone, whether they are based in Missouri or anywhere throughout the country.
For the past year, we have seen too many small businesses put “closed forever” signs on their front doors because of the pandemic. Some of these retailers were able to stay afloat through making deliveries or offering some sort of carryout, or pickup at the front door. These are the local businesses that depend on foot traffic every day. When there is no one to come by the physical location, business goes down, and we have seen more than these places disappear than we may have preferred.
If SB 153 becomes law, large, online merchants will have to abide by the same rules that oversee the local stores. In my opinion, this is only fair. Why should we punish a mom and pop store and let some faceless Internet website walk in and not contribute to the community? To me, it just makes sense to help our friends and neighbors. This is not a disincentive for buying online. It simply makes things fairer for everybody who chooses to take part in capitalism.
As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is 573-751-1415, my email is email@example.com and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
Dan Hegeman is the 12th District State Senator.