Pending Bill Could Mean Changes for Internet Shopping Future

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COLUMBIA - Holiday Internet shoppers could see some changes to their checkout totals next holiday season. The Marketplace Fairness Act, currently pending a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, would allow states like Missouri join the 24 other states that collect sales tax from on-line retailers.

Matt McCormick, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said the bill would be a big step to ensure some businesses don't lose out.

"What it's trying to do is put everybody, whether it's brick and mortar, or Internet business, it's on the same level playing ground," McCormick said.

Frequent Internet shopper Emily Bear said she on-line shops for the convenience, but also to save money by not paying sales tax, like in stores.

"On-line shopping gives me an opportunity to just do it quick, look at all the options right on one screen, and I often find cheaper deals on-line as well," Bear said.

But while some on-line shoppers may save money from not having to pay a sales tax for all on-line retailers, supporters of the bill say cities lose out on a lot of money.

"It can make a large difference between how many police officers you have, how many firefighters you have. Are you able to take care of certain roads? It can make a drastic difference to how much money there is there to operate your city," McCormick said.

A 2013 National Conference of State Legislatures said Missouri missed out on about $430 million dollars last year because it does not collect on-line sales tax. While supporters said that lost money would come back to the city if the bill were approved, others said the results on on-line shopping are not easy to predict.

"It could affect the holiday season very much. Would ‘Cyber Monday' go away? The hope would be that it would get passed," McCormick said. "It does put everyone on that level playing ground and it could change shopping in the future. This could potentially be the last year before this could be in place."

For now, Bear said she will continue to on-line shop, but her approach could change if an Internet sales tax became enforced for all Internet retailers.

"I would search a little more on different sites that had cheaper deals compared to in the store, but the convenience is something I couldn't pass up," Bear said.