McKane Davis’s recent opinion piece (“The Marketplace Fairness Act will be as hard to implement as Obamacare”) could not be further from reality. When our company, Simms Fishing Products in Bozeman, Montana — a tax-free shopping state — decided to sell online, we chose to collect and remit sales taxes on all applicable out-of-state sales. The process of setting this up and collecting state sales taxes has actually been much easier than we anticipated, and certainly far less complex and less costly than recent changes to our company’s health coverage.
Our experience with sales tax collection software has been entirely unlike any of the doomsaying that I have read from the opponents of marketplace fairness. We found that there are several very good third-party services that already address tax collections and remittance. Integrating that software with our website and shopping cart program was a straightforward exercise, and the monthly and quarterly collection data is available for our review anytime. This automated service allows us to comply with taxing jurisdictions all across the country without having to invest internal resources on research of tax rules and filing of tax forms. It automatically applies the appropriate tax rate for all our products, remits, and then tracks our sales tax records for each applicable state.
Over the past five years, we have seen unprecedented business failures with our specialty retail partners in states with high sales taxes. I’m all about competition, but it is simply unfair that a Simms customer can visit a fly shop, try on a pair of our $500 waders, and then go online and buy them without paying sales tax — even while they are still in the store. We believe that the Marketplace Fairness Act is one important step towards leveling the playing field for such businesses.
The loss of brick-and-mortar fishing retailers will certainly hurt our industry and dampen the growth of sportfishing. A few years ago the Outdoor Industry Association discovered that fishing is an important gateway to outdoor activities for young Americans. It’s a first step in getting our kids outdoors, towards a healthier, more active lifestyle. Most introductions to the sport of fishing happen at the retail level through specialty fly and conventional stores. These stores give customers expert guidance based on their local knowledge of fishing spots and techniques. Many also offer free lessons to help bring new enthusiasts to our sport.
When those companies lose business to out-of-state competitors online, our industry also starts to lose the hands-on instruction and local expertise that comes with buying from these specialty fishing shops. Our retail partners are also important centers of community engagement and support tourism in many parts of the country. For example, specialty fly shops often partner with local Trout Unlimited chapters, American Rivers, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation and other organizations that are committed to cleaning up streams and promoting conservation and eco-tourism. This symbiotic relationship between our industry and local communities goes away when we lose those local specialty shops.
We support the Marketplace Fairness Act because it will help our retail partners and recreational customers; it will help our sport and industry; and it will create more simplicity and uniformity for online retailers who sell in multiple states. In our direct experience, implementation and compliance costs were minimal while the benefits of fair competition in the retail marketplace should be obvious.
On behalf of our employees and retail partners, I urge all state and national lawmakers to support this important legislation. The Marketplace Fairness Act will modernize government policies and level the playing field for our retailers.