From the Editor
By Ina Steiner
My least favorite topic to write about, besides fraud, is taxes. Earlier this month, the Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP) (http://www.streamlinedsalestax.org) members met, and as of October 1, "retailers may voluntarily agree to collect taxes for remote sales originating in any of the 12 states that are full members."
SSTP is a multi-state initiative to make sales-tax laws, rules, and systems more uniform across states and thus easier for vendors to collect states' sales taxes. There's a nice summary of the recent developments in this Washington Post article (http://digbig.com/4ebbt) (I believe you have to register to read the article, but there's no charge to register).
What does all this mean? As an online seller located in Massachusetts, I've always been required to collect sales tax on all orders I ship to Massachusetts addresses. But I'm not required to collect sales tax on orders I ship outside of Massachusetts. Imagine the headaches that would involve! But the states feel retailers should have to collect sales taxes for all states. Many brick-and-mortar businesses agree, feeling that they have to collect sales tax from customers who walk through their doors, why shouldn't online retailers have to collect taxes too?
I wrote to Diane Hardt, co-chair of the SSTP Steering Committee, to find out if there is a small-business exemption. She said, "The streamlined sales tax system provides for voluntary tax collection for a seller that does not have nexus (a connection) with a state. It would take action by Congress to require collection. Federal legislation will be introduced and possibly soon. It is anticipated that there will be a small business exception in the federal legislation. Previous bills included a small business exception for businesses with gross receipts of less than 5 million."
eBay opposes the SSTP and has a page about its stance on its government relations section (http://www.ebaymainstreet.com/federal/?id=000015). There are also instructions on how to write to your legislators (http://www.ebaymainstreet.com/write). Now is the time to get involved if you want to have a voice in the matter.
There are some interesting letters from readers today, some written in response to developments covered in our sister publication, AuctionBytes Newsflash. Last week eBay announced PayPal sellers can no longer exclude credit-card funded purchases (http://auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y05/m07/i18/s02), and eBay banned family, roommates and employees from bidding on a seller's items (http://auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y05/m07/i19/s01). You can read the letters here: http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y205/m07/abu0147/s07
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I hope you are enjoying the summer and aren't affected by the extreme weather in some parts of the country.
Thanks for reading.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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