Last weekend many families like mine celebrated the Fourth of July in our local community by watching the annual parade and fireworks, attending community-sponsored concerts and events, or hosting their own BBQs. I couldn’t help but think about all the logistics, time and money that go into planning a day celebrating our great nation’s independence. As an owner of an 80-year-old family-owned small business, Economy Plumbing Supply Co. in Indianapolis, I understand that the sales tax I collect from my customers at the point of sale supports my town. The annual Fourth of July parade logistics, the road closures and even the fireworks are paid for by sales tax revenue collected by local retailers like me. And these events are managed and protected by our first responders who work long hours and are often understaffed and under-supplied due to local budget cuts. I feel honored to contribute to my town, but an outdated sales tax system threatens not only my business, but our entire community.
Today, local brick-and-mortar retailers like me are suffering from a severe disadvantage that is threatening our ability to compete in today’s marketplace. Our current sales tax laws are strictly enforced on brick-and-mortar small businesses like mine, while online-only sellers – often selling the same products to the same consumers – are not required to collect sales tax at point of sale. The sales tax burden falls on the consumer to remit his or her sales tax directly to the state if the online retailer doesn’t collect it. This transaction rarely happens, and as a result, our local communities lose much needed revenue.
Did you know that the sales tax revenue collected by local small business owners like me provides jobs for our first responders? Firefighters, medics and police officers’ salaries are all paid by revenue collected from sales tax. These important first responders keep our communities safe, and our local residents protected. It is critical that we continue to protect their jobs.
Sales tax revenue also supports community organizations and charities, helps to maintain roads- keeping our cities and towns vibrant, and helps us fund community events, like the yearly Fourth of July festivities. In order for our communities to continue to thrive and flourish, local small business owners need a fair and level playing field to compete, which in turn, supports our first responders and community organizations.
Right now Congress has the ideal opportunity to protect small business owners, first responders and local communities by passing recently introduced efairness legislation – the Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2015 (RTPA). I encourage Congress to allow our local communities to continue to be protected by our essential first responders, and enjoy the services they provide us.
John Strong is the President of Economy Plumbing Supply Co. and the Chairman of the American Supply Association.