General Assembly considers sales tax for online purchases

By Melissa Correa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - State lawmakers could soon come down hard on internet retailers. A senate bill proposes allowing online retailers to charge state sales tax, same as walk-in stores do.

Walk into Fountain Bookstore in the Shockoe Slip and you're quickly greeted by a store employee who will guide you through your purchase. Visit an online retailer and your cursor's doing the navigating.

"If you purchasing on the internet, anywhere in America, you don't normally pay a sales tax," said George Peyton, with the Virginia Retailers Federation. He says he's speaking up for the little guy like Fountain Bookstore.

"The internet retailer when they're not collecting that sales tax they've got a 5 percent advantage, it's almost like having a sales-tax holiday everyday," he said.

Online retailers don't want Senate bill 660 passed.  They say small affiliates of major internet sites would lose business, possibly have to shut down their site.

Kelly Justice with Fountain Bookstore says she has to pay rent, property taxes and sales tax, paying sales tax for online sales to Virginia customers is only fair, especially when internet sales tax is estimated to add up to $17 million.

"We want to make sure that members of our community are getting all the income they deserve," she said.

"There are advantages to internet, I don't dispute that.  But I think that we really need to look at seriously playing with the same rules that we're playing with."

Danny Givens owns a small business in Lynchburg.  He says forget big-box chains, internet retailers are his main competitors.  He and Kelly are hoping the Commonwealth joins the list of states that require sales tax for online sales, even purchases to Fountain Bookstores website.

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