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Jan Teague
WRA President/CEO
Commentary

Much of our current process for handling petition gatherers at retail locations is in question if I-517 passes. The Washington Retail Association has taken a position to oppose this November’s initiative written by the professional initiative promoter, Tim Eyman, for his paid signature-gatherers.

Eyman wants more time to collect signatures, more places on our property to do it and no interference by the courts or legal system. The initiative is written so that one might think that Eyman’s paid signature-gatherers were being treated terribly and he wants to protect them. Our experience is just the opposite. The customers usually complain about aggressive signature gatherers who upset their shopping experience. read more »

 
Commentary

Last week I joined over 100 leaders in Washington, D.C., to speak to members of the House of Representatives about a top retail priority issue, marketplace fairness. After more than 10 years of discussion with local, state, and national leaders, I think we are finally ready to resolve the congressional concerns.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still opposition groups out there trying to confuse the issue so that online retailers don’t have to collect sales taxes due to states. The competitive edge of tax-exempt prices continues to erode the growth and survival of our retailers. The winners in this debate have been online retailers who don’t collect sales tax. read more »

 
Commentary

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) recently invited me to meet with her and Kirkland reporters during a small business tour to talk about online retailers not collecting the state’s sales taxes. I was reminded why our small retailers are having so much trouble competing with out-of-state online retailers who don’t collect taxes on sales.

These small retailers have to buy enough product to stock their shelves. They pay ahead of time and incur shipping costs. Once the shelves are stocked, people come in and find what they are looking for and may stand right in the store with their cell phone and shop for the same item online. Often the item comes right from a warehouse and the customer gets a lower price and doesn’t pay the state’s sales tax.

In one bicycle store, the owner said that he can spend an hour helping a customer with an expensive bike that needs to be fitted to the customer, then the customer goes online and orders the bike. read more »

 
Opinions

Retailers lose market share to online retailers because there is no sales tax on the item, but there is more to the story. We all know that we have been trying for a decade to get Congress to come up with a national solution. But have you considered that the state’s policies on labor costs also play a role when it comes to these online retailers competing in our state?

Out-of-state online retailers don’t pay the highest minimum wage in the nation, like our retailers do. They don’t pay the highest worker compensation benefits, like our retailers do. They don’t pay the highest unemployment insurance taxes like our retailers do. The list is a lot longer including expensive sick leave laws. And, because our prevailing wage laws that construct our public facilities are high, so are our business taxes to cover these costs. read more »

 

The Washington Retail Association joined a coalition of state retailers and business associations last week in a letter urging Congress to pass a law closing the current Internet tax loophole.

The Legislature passed a joint resolution last year in support of the same tax reform WRA and the business coalition seek in the letter to the state’s Congressional delegation.

In short, pending federal legislation would force online retailers to collect sales taxes, which would level the competitive marketplace with traditional brick-and-mortar retailers who do collect the tax. The pending bills would require online retailers to collect the tax and remit it to the local and state governments where sales were being completed. read more »

 

A VAT (value added tax), which is a national sales tax assessed at each stage of production, is being considered by Nancy Pelosi and other leaders in Congress. This week I have been talking with our national partners to see if they have the inside story on its potential. Their answer is that it is simply too early to tell.

The likelihood of any decisions about the deficit will wait until after elections. But this early announcement of political leadership’s interest in a VAT tax can serve the Congressional leadership well. read more »

 

I listened as people testified on the impacts of the House tax proposal. Two rooms had to be set aside for the crowds that came to town. Lobbyists were not allowed to testify until as many others could speak in the two-hour hearing.

As the hearing came to a close most legislators said they were not happy about the situation. But in the end, the tax bill passed out of committee on a party-line vote. Class sizes trumped jobs. read more »

 

State Auditor Brian Sonntag offers state legislators an important reminder this year to help solve the mounting budget problems the state faces.

As legislators convene on Jan. 11 to begin addressing the state’s $2.6 billion revenue shortfall, a new report from Sonntag’s office should remind legislators that resorting to tax and fee increases should be far from the only ideas they discuss. read more »

 
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