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Can You Kill a Bad Bill in Only 180 Seconds?

Stopwatch Today I testified before the DC Council’s Finance Committee on the District’s “Internet Sales Taxes” and “Main Street Fairness” amendments.  These amendments require all out-of-state sellers, even those with no physical presence in DC, to collect and remit sales taxes for sales into the District.

As the only person testifying on this issue and with only three minutes to speak, I went after our top two points.

I started by explaining how the Internet Sales Taxes amendment is unnecessary.

23 of the top 25 e-retailers already collect sales tax in DC. For example, when I shop at Best Buy, they already collect and remit sales taxes to DC.  When my wife, a social worker at a DC Charter School, doesn’t have time to go to Macy’s, she logs onto — who also collects and remits DC sales taxes.

So, online purchasing is about convenience, not tax avoidance.  And, as the statistic shows, 23 of the top 25 e-retailers already collect sales taxes in DC.

Next, I discussed how the “Main Street Fairness” amendment does not really help Main Street.  Instead, it provides the greatest benefits to big-box stores.

The “Main Street Fairness” aspect of this amendment does not actually help DC’s Main Street. It’s the big-box stores who compete with online retailers that really benefit from these amendments.  The same big box stores who have helped place Main Street in the economic situation they now find themselves.  So this amendment is not about “Main Street Fairness,” but is actually unneeded assistance to the big-box stores.

Unfortunately, with only three minutes, I didn’t even have time to discuss how these amendments will clash with the Supreme Court decision in Quill.  So, the District is likely to lose any legal battle over the Constitutionality of these amendments.  And DC residents would be the ones footing the bill for a losing battle.

The Council votes on these amendments on June 14.  Knowing the importance of this issue, I reinforced my underlying points one more time before a three-minutes “times up” light started flashing in my face.

So, did I kill these amendments in 180 seconds?  Not even close.  The DC Council will surely pass these amendments next week.

It’ll take a lot longer than 180 seconds, but I’m sure that a crew of constitutional lawyers can kill these amendments once they become law.

— Carl Szabo