The California Assembly just passed a bill which would require on-line retailers, such as Amazon, to collect sales tax. A key problem underlying governments today (federal, state, county, and municipal) is that they have less revenue than expenses. (Very few governments are running at a surplus these days.) Interestingly, we-the-people are both the “owners” of government and the “consumers” of government. As such, it is imperative that we adequately fund the government as well as steer its expenditures.
Sales tax is used to pay for stuff that we want. Here in Missouri, it pays for things that I care about like schools and roads. I presume it is the same where you live, too, though you may call it a Value-Added Tax (VAT) instead of a Sales Tax. On the one hand, I want to avoid paying tax because it’s money out of my pocket. On the other hand, I have to realize — we all have to realize — that the more I/we avoid paying taxes, the bigger the funding crisis becomes for the functions that we expect of our government. How can you, for instance, demand the highest quality education for your children while at the same time starving your local school district for funds?
Sales tax, in and of itself, is largely revenue-neutral for a business. Sure, there is some accounting expense involved in remitting the monies to the various tax authorities, but the tax itself comes from the purchaser and the costs are pretty much evenly shared by all businesses. As a business owner, I readily admit that I would rather send sales tax to one place than 50 but that’s another story…. My point is that asking Amazon to collect sales tax is not going to significantly impact their business. Amazon might raise their prices a bit to cover their added accounting costs but that’s just business; all businesses charge enough to cover costs plus some profit.
Generally speaking, I choose to shop locally rather than buy from Amazon. Yes, I pay more. But I also know that I am supporting business owners and employees within my local community. My taxes get used here in my county to pay for stuff that I care about. There is real value to me in being able to walk into a store, pick up the item that I want, perhaps test it, and bring it home with me. I want these stores and my neighbors (the employees and business owners) to stay here so I vote with my dollars. You vote with your dollars, too. I am not telling you how to vote, just encouraging you to vote consciously to nurture the businesses and services that matter to you.
Paying taxes is not the solution but it is part of the solution. As a members of this society, I think that we all have as much responsibility to fund our society as we do to oversee how those funds are spent.