Statewide online sales tax possible

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Updated: 5/06/2013 10:54 pm
SALTILLO, Miss. (WTVA) -- The U.S. Census Bureau estimates people spent more than $4 trillion in sales over the Internet in 2010.

How much of that is lost because most states nationwide do not charge online sales tax?

In Mississippi's case, more than $100 million, according to a University of Tennessee study.

That amount represents only one year, too.

"In a very real way, we've missed the boat, missed a lot of sales tax collections because it hasn't been imposed before now," Saltillo Mayor Bill Williams said.

Would cities statewide stand to benefit if Mississippi had an Internet sales tax in place?

"The studies reflect that we've had over the last five years something like a $600 million loss in revenues," Rep. Steve Holland (D-Plantersville) said. "Do you realize what $600 million would do for the tax base of this state?"

Though it's not universally embraced across party lines, the concept of an Internet sales tax is something on which both Democratic Rep. Holland and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant agree.

At the same time, there's not a lot that can be done on a state level yet.

"We've not had a lot of formal talks about it for the simple reason that we're prevented from doing that right now because the federal government hasn't acted," Holland said.

What he means is the Marketplace Fairness Act, which passed the U.S. Senate on Monday, would lift any restrictions on states implementing an online sales tax.

Holland said Mississippi, like many Southern states, is primarily funded through sales tax revenue anyway.

So are its cities and towns.

"By not taxing those internet sales like we do every other retail person in the U.S., it's really a form of piracy, the way I see it," Williams said.

Still, he said he believes establishing a sales tax for online goods will help local businesses.

"To me, it levels the playing field and in doing so, gives more revenue to the cities and town that depend on it to provide services to their citizens," Williams said.

It's also a topic legislators will likely debate in next year's Legislative session if the Marketplace Fairness Act is signed into law in Washington.

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