EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 8, 2013

N.H. delegation continues fight against Internet sales tax

By Alex Lippa

---- — New Hampshire’s congressional delegation continues to cry foul over the Marketplace Fairness Act.

There’s nothing fair about it for the tax-free Granite State, they say.

But the U.S. Senate approved legislation Monday, 69-27, which would require Internet retailers to collect sales taxes for orders shipped to states that have such a tax. New Hampshire is one of only five states that does not have a sales tax.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. voted against the bill, saying it unfairly burdens small businesses.

The battle is far from over. The proposal faces tough going in the U.S. House, where the state’s two congresswomen also oppose the measure.

“The fight doesn’t end here,” Ayotte said. “As this legislation moves to the House, I will continue my efforts to protect New Hampshire’s online retailers from being forced to become tax collectors for other states.”

Shaheen filed amendments to exclude businesses in New Hampshire and the other tax-free states, but her efforts failed.

“We shouldn’t be imposing new and unnecessary burdens on New Hampshire small businesses, especially when there is no benefit for our state,” Shaheen said.

Some local business owners expressed frustrated with the Senate vote, including Sarah Geldart of Rick’s Motorcycles in Plaistow. Geldart said 90 percent of her business is done through online sales. The store specializes in used motorcycle parts.

“It’s crazy,” Geldart said. “It would be a big inconvenience to us as a business. We would have to hire another employee just to keep track of everything.”

Geldart said she hasn’t calculated just how big the hit to her business would be.

“We will make less money in profit, based on how we operate,” she said. “I know some people will have to go out of business, but we are going to figure out what the rules are and adjust to it.”

But not all businesses are upset. Al Raymond, owner of DeColores Books and Gifts in Salem, is pleased the bill has cleared one hurdle.

“This bill would even the playing field for us,” Raymond said. “We have a presence on the ground in our communities that many of these Internet businesses don’t. This would help us compete with big sites such as eBay and Amazon.”

Raymond’s store has no online sales.

The next step is for the U.S. House to take up the bill. Rob Friedlander, spokesman for Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-N.H., said there was no timeline for the vote.

Neither N.H. congresswoman supports the proposal.

“The issue of sales taxes should be left up to individual states, and she is committed to protecting states like New Hampshire which have opted out of a sales tax,” said Ben Wakana, spokesman for Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.

Wakana said Shea-Porter planned to introduce Shaheen’s amendment in the House.

Kuster has been vocal in her opposition to the bill, writing a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, urging him to vote it down.

“Instead of needlessly saddling these firms with onerous rules and paperwork, both parties must work together to help foster the conditions they need to grow and succeed,” Kuster said.

Rick Boie, owner of Pearl’s Candy and Nuts in Salem, said the extra time spent collecting and forwarding the taxes would be the biggest issue.

“It just sounds like a pain in the neck,” Boie said. “Right now, you just sit there and calculate the check and there’s nothing else to do. It’s a done deal once you make the sale.”

Nancy Kyle, president of the New Hampshire Retail Merchants Association, said the organization would not take a stand on the bill because the board is divided.