Georgia’s Local Retailers Need Our Help Now

Beth EnglishI live in a small town in South Georgia where we’re more than just a “community,” we are neighbors. The merchants in our downtown districts are part of that neighborhood too. They are the first ones to sign up to support our school teams and every good cause and civic event that takes place in Vienna. That’s the kind of neighbors we have here. They take care of us, and we look after them. And they need our help right now.

The issue of sales tax fairness is currently being debated in our nation’s capitol, with businesses and local representatives around the country calling for Congress to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act. This legislation would allow states that have a streamlined sales tax code, like the one here in Georgia, to require online retailers to collect and remit sales taxes on items purchased within our borders.

It is my belief that any legislation that removes the up to seven percent price disadvantage local retailers in Georgia face when competing with online merchants is a good thing for our state and communities. Enacting the Marketplace Fairness Act simply levels the playing field for all retailers no matter where or how they sell, putting our hometown merchants on equal footing with their out-of-state competitors.

Strong local economies are built on the foundation that local businesses provide. Georgia’s local entrepreneurs and small businesses create jobs and economic activity that in turn generate sales taxes that help keep property taxes low. When our citizens support their local retailers, that money stays local. Whether that means paying our neighbor’s paychecks or paving our hometown roads, Main Street retailers sustain local economies across Georgia.

If this loophole remains in place, Georgia’s Main Street retailers, our neighbors, will continue to lose customers and we’ll continue to see a loss of jobs and economic activity in our communities. Ending this unequal tax treatment, which tends to distort market forces, will give our downtown neighbors a more competitive, pro-growth and level playing field on which to compete; exactly what a free marketplace needs in order to thrive.

While strong local economies are built on a foundation of strong local businesses, our schools, public safety, and public infrastructure also play a vital role in creating and supporting a healthy business environment. In other words, it’s a reciprocal relationship; we need our neighbors and they need us.

It’s time to talk to our Congressional delegation and ask them to support the Marketplace Fairness Act. Our local businesses, which make our communities and our neighborhoods strong, deserve to be treated fairly. They’ve supported us; now it’s time for us to support them.

Beth English is the president of the Georgia Municipal Association.

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