Campaigns about the Marketplace Fairness Act

The recent refusal of the Supreme Court to hear Amazon and Overstock’s appeal against a New York state ruling on sales tax collection for internet sellers has heated up the debate about online sales tax again. The Marketplace Fairness Act, a law allowing states to demand that remote sellers such as e-commerce and catalog merchants to collect sales tax, is the pivotal law in the debate, so people on both sides of the debate are undertaking campaigns to influence the decision. As the shopping season gets into full swing, retailers and online sellers are even approaching their customers to gain support for their side of the argument. Some ecommerce sellers are including letters in packages sent to customers with postcards to send to legislators. Brick-and-mortar businesses are running their own letter writing campaign to “put a fire in [their] bellies,” says one USA Today article.

The race is on to try to change legislators’ minds one way or another before the Marketplace Fairness Act comes to a vote. Should your business start a campaign that reflects your views on the MFA? Probably not. You might distance your customers and give them a sour taste in their mouths. Polls show that the majority of people oppose the MFA, but even if you want to encourage this point of view, you probably don’t know the preferences of your own customers. Customers who don’t want to get involved in political debates will quickly find somewhere else to take their business. This might mean a decrease in sales and it could potentially hurt your business.

If your business still wants to do something to further the MFA or oppose it, you can take action without asking customers and creating the possibility of hurting your relationship with them: Add your name for or against at MarketplaceFairness.org Contact your own congressional representative and explain your point of view. Talk to other merchants about the MFA and make sure they have the information they need. Get ready! Whichever side of the debate you favor, make sure that your company’s sales an use tax compliance systems are in order and ready for the final decision.

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