Louisiana lawmakers consider Internet sales tax

Paul Murphy talks about an internet sales tax that's being discussed to fill the budget gap.

BATON ROUGE, La. - During a special session where support for new revenue has been difficult, one proposal stands out.

Lawmakers are poised to impose an eight percent tax on Internet sales on companies that sell at least $50,000 of goods a year in Louisiana. 

Under current law, consumers and businesses are supposed self-report their taxes on Internet purchases. State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans authored the bill.

"This is a mechanism to allow the Department of Revenue to pursue the collection of a tax that's rightfully due, but unfortunately being evaded at this time," Leger said.

The internet tax bill has the backing of Governor John Bel Edwards and Louisiana retailers. It's a tough sell for shoppers. 

"Oh, heck no, no way," one shopper said. "They're already getting us on everything, anyway, so no."

Another shopper said, "I really don't think it should be done."     

"I don't think you should have to pay Internet sales tax, unless you purchase it in your city," said another shopper.

Mike Massey from Massey's Sporting Goods says the tax would level the playing field for bricks and mortar store and their online competitors.

"The case has been made over and over and over again that this is a critical tax for not just Louisiana and not just the revenue collection, but for the businesses in Louisiana who are trying to compete in this environment," Massey said. 

According to a study by the retail industry research group Civic Economics, Amazon alone could generate up to $75 million in sales tax per year in Louisiana.

There are currently 28 states where Amazon collects sales tax and that includes states where the company has a physical location and ones with laws forcing Amazon to collect the tax.

Dana Eness from the Urban Conservancy says it's a tax fairness issue.

"This is not a new tax," Eness said. "This is a collection issue. We're leaving money on the table, year, after year, millions of dollars."

The Internet tax bill is now awaiting action on the Senate floor.

State and local governments would split the proceeds of the tax.


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