Tue, Oct. 22

Editorial: Level playing field needed between online and traditional merchandisers

Arizona lawmakers are finally acknowledging the uneven playing field that exists between Arizona retailers and online merchandisers.

A new law that takes effect later this month will require Arizonans to claim on their state income tax how much they spent on items from mail order, phone or online retailers who did not charge them tax.

They then will be required to pay 6.6 percent of that figure.

There are many folks who will take the high road and be honest about such purchases. But there will be just as many – maybe more – who will ignore this new law.

Nonetheless, this is a start in the needed direction of leveling the playing field between online warehouses and storefront retailers. What’s needed most is a uniform standard on collecting sales tax at source of sale whether it’s online or from a retail operator.

Monday, Arizona Retailers Association Executive Director Michelle Ahlmer noted that some Internet sales already are taxed in Arizona, but others – and she singled out – are guilty of what she labeled as tax evasion. She cited,, as online merchandisers who collect Arizona sales tax at source of sale.

Clearly, there is a double standard at work here over just how sales tax is collected and paid to the state by online retailers. If the State of Arizona cannot create a consistent standard on sales tax collections among online merchandisers, who are they to ask the consumer to make up the difference.

Further, it’s interesting to note that this new law only provides a benefit to state government, as if Arizona small town governments and their retailers are not taking a beating from online competition. If this new law is good enough for the state, it’s probably more needed for towns like Cottonwood and Camp Verde. Don’t think for a second they have not been victimized by the lure of online merchandisers who boldly advertise “no sales tax, ever.”

A vibrant free-market system can only exist where there is fair competition and a level playing field.

That’s not the case today.

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