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State officials hoping for federal Internet sales tax bill

Alexander Pyles//May 1, 2013

State officials hoping for federal Internet sales tax bill

By Alexander Pyles

//May 1, 2013

It’s rare that the opening oratory during a meeting of the Board of Public Works is met with the approval of all three elected officials who sit on the state board.

But on Wednesday, Gov. Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp sent a unified message to Washington to lawmakers regarding the Marketplace Fairness Act:

“We’re saying nicely. Please pass it,” Franchot said.

The bill, expected to be passed by the U.S. Senate next week, would force online retailers to charge their customers a state sales tax. Technically, online shoppers are supposed to self-report their online purchases and pay taxes to their state; few do.

Franchot, Maryland’s tax collector, said the federal legislation would mean $173 million in new revenue for Maryland. It would also hold down a gas tax increase approved by the General Assembly this year.

But the comptroller said the legislation was also about “fairness.”

“This bill would have a significant positive impact on our local small businesses,” Franchot said. “These businesses operate at a distinct disadvantage to these behemoth companies.”

What’s good for Maryland’s small business is good for Maryland residents, Franchot said, because they are engaged in the community.

“Has anyone ever seen ‘Amazon’ written on the back of a Pop Warner jersey?” he asked.

O’Malley responded with a “hear, hear,” and Kopp said she only hoped the U.S. House of Representatives — “at times … a less enlightened body,” she said — would follow the Senate‘s apparent example.

“We started looking at this, it has to be 15 years ago,” Kopp said. “We couldn’t get Congress to pay attention then.”

The treasurer, comptroller and governor hope Washington is paying attention now.


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