House Urged to Pass Marketplace Fairness Act

After Speaker of the House John Boehner said Monday he would block any attempt to pass e-fairness legislation in the lame-duck session of Congress, the Marketplace Fairness Coalition sent a letter signed by more than 320 organizations urging him to reconsider, Bookselling This Week reported. In addition, Advocates for Independent Business, which includes the American Booksellers Association, has relaunched the #efairnessnow grassroots social media campaign in support of e-fairness.

The Marketplace Fairness Act was passed 69-27 by the Senate in May 2013, requiring "remote" retailers with out-of-state sales of at least $1 million to collect applicable state and local sales tax on all purchases. President Obama has said he would sign the bill into law; many House Republicans and most online retailers, but not Amazon, have fought the bill.

It's unlikely that such a bill would pass either chamber when the new Congress, with its Republican majorities, convenes in the new year. Presumed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against the Marketplace Fairness Act.

The letter said, in part: "Locally based retailers and wholesaler-distributors and their employees across the country expect Congress to make 2014 the last year in which Main Street businesses are burdened with a government-sanctioned price disadvantage, compared to their online competitors. The time to level the playing field has come… There have been more than 30 Congressional hearings on this issue since 1994, including three hearings in the House Judiciary Committee in the past three years alone.... [R]ecent national polling results show that 7 in 10 consumers support legislation requiring online sellers to collect sales tax at the time of purchase just as local brick-and-mortar businesses do."

Among the signatories to the letter are the ABA and the nine regional booksellers associations. ABA executive director Oren Teicher commented: "We appreciate that getting it done with the Speaker's opposition will not be easy, but we are continuing to press our case. It remains outrageous that--in late 2014--we still need to argue for a level playing field with regard to the collection of sales taxes. For one group of retailers to continue to get a tax beak that is unavailable to others is as unfair today as it was a decade ago. The time for Congress to act is NOW!!!!"

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