A group of small online retailers have launched a coalition to protest against the imposition of laws requiring them to collect sales taxes from customers.

Nearly 1,000 small businesses announced the launch Wednesday of the Web Enabled Retailers Helping Expand Retail Employment, or WE R HERE, coalition, using a Google Hangout On Air to formally introduce the coalition.

The WE R HERE coalition, perhaps named after the exhortation from the citizens of Whoville in Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who,” hopes to provide Web retailers who operate out of cities and towns across America a unified voice on issues important to small businesses, including taxes, jobs and the economy. The group said such voices have been largely overlooked in critical policy debates, including the one around Internet sales taxes that is taking place in Washington. Legislation requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes from customers appears to be gaining traction in Congress this year, but many Web retailers object.

“It is not the job of small businesses to collect taxes for state and local governments where they don't live, do business or receive government services—it is unfair, unwise and it will undermine innovation,” said Phil Bond, executive director of WE R HERE and formerly the Under Secretary for Technology at the Commerce Department and former president of TechAmerica. "Web enabled retailers are critical to the future of our economy, expanding retail competition and providing consumers with a greater array of choice. We formed the coalition because these small business retailers—our members—should be heard when policymakers make decisions that will impact their businesses and their potential to grow."

The group argues that online commerce has revolutionized American small business by allowing a Main Street store anywhere to become a Main Street store everywhere. Americans benefit from having more product choices, availability and competitive pricing. Small online retail businesses in thousands of U.S. communities are using the Internet to grow and create jobs in their hometowns. But current proposed Internet sales tax legislation threatens to harm consumers and crush the growth and job creation potential of small online retailers, according to the group. “In this economy, we should be rewarding innovative small businesses, not punishing them with undue burdens,” said Bond.

“With over 9,600 tax jurisdictions across the country, the thought of taking on new tax burdens that this legislation is trying to impose is truly frightening,” said Tracy Johnson, WE R HERE member and owner of several small businesses in Nebraska that sell body jewelry and hair care products online. “The excessive sales tax paperwork would effectively close the door of opportunity on me while I continue the delicate process of transforming my business from a solo venture into a job creating, tax revenue generating entity.”

Small businesses already face proportionally higher operating costs compared to large national retailers, and the proposed legislation would further undermine their ability to compete and continue to drive online innovation. "I've tried to keep my business small enough to provide personalized service, but the proposed sales tax legislation would undermine my ability to stay home with my children while making a living doing what I love. This tax policy shouldn't penalize small, local business owners by making them tax collectors," said Brandi Tolley, an Army veteran from Illinois and owner of an online store specializing in Big and Tall men's clothing.

WE R HERE hopes to give Web-enabled retailers a unified voice, demonstrating to government policy makers and opinion leaders the positive role online small businesses play in today's economy. Following Wednesday’s launch, coalition members aim to mobilize other online retailers to work together to protect themselves and other businesses from misguided Internet sales tax regulations that could hurt jobs and undermine innovation.

"The crux of the sales tax issue is a question of fairness. It's clear that we need a tax policy that creates jobs and gives entrepreneurs and small business owners a chance to grow," said Joe Cortese, owner of a major wholesale supplier of coins. "Though my business is based in New Hampshire, a sales-tax free state, I would still be required to collect and remit sales taxes for other states essentially becoming a tax collector for 49 states in which I don't reside."

For more information, visit http://werherecoalition.org.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access