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Brick-and-Mortar Storeowners Cheer State's Plan to Collect Online Sales Tax

Pennsylvania booksellers who have long called for an "e-fairness" policy are commending the state's recent announcement about sales taxes. The clarification says that online, catalog, and phone retailers with some kind of physical presence in the commonwealth now will have to collect state sales tax.

Todd Dickinson has run Aaron's Books, a store in Lancaster County, for six years, and he has been pushing to get the state to make e-commerce retailers collect sales tax. Dickinson said that the latest clarification is a big shift.

"Pennsylvania saying, you know, the Internet is now established, and we don't have to treat it with kid gloves, and we're not going to hurt its growth by applying the same rules to the folks there as we do to the brick-and-mortar stores in our state," said Dickinson.

The state Revenue Department said it will start enforcing sales tax collection among remote sellers that have any kind of physical presence in the commonwealth. The Revenue Secretary has interpreted that to mean any warehouses, delivery infrastructure, or sales agents in Pennsylvania. Companies like Amazon, eBay, and Overstock will have to register to collect and send in sales tax by next February.

Dickinson says that it's only fair for storeowners like him, that have long had to compete with e-commerce discounts that are due, in part, to not having to charge sales tax.

The sales tax clarification coincides with the state's latest monthly revenues, which shows revenue collection for the year so far is about 3.5 percent lower than expected.