NEW ORLEANS -- As Internet retail has exploded in recent years, many local businesses have felt disadvantaged as shoppers often bypass them to shop online, tax-free.
"We've been talking about it for many years and it's just unfair to local businesses,” said Kent Alimia, vice president A-1 Appliance & Electronics.
It's a reason A-1 Appliance Vice President Kent Alimia hopes Congress will level the playing field.
Wednesday, Senators passed a measure that would empower states to collect Internet sales taxes from out-of-state retailers.
As the bill now heads to the House, many businesses are paying close attention.
"A customer says, 'I can buy it for the same price on the internet, but I don't have to pay tax.' It's unfair to brick and mortar stores like us,” Alimia said.
It's a common complaint.
But some retailers, like Diva Dollz in the French Quarter, say they fare better against online competition.
"People want to be able to easily access everything, but, I mean, our kind of field is a little bit different since everything is very, I guess, kind of broad in terms of fit of size for clothing,” said Steven Adams, the co-owner of Diva Dollz.
The tax bill would affect businesses with more than $1 million in online, out-of-state sales – companies, some say, that have avoided certain challenges.
"When you go to an appliance store and sell an appliance or electronics, margins are razor-thin and when you've got razor-thin margins and you're trying to take 89 percent off the top end, it really leaves you nothing, and of course, if you don't have anything, why make the sale?” said Gary Alimia, president of A-1 Appliance & Electronics.
The Internet sales tax bill is expected to face opposition in the House from lawmakers who see it as a tax increase.