Could paying more online force you to shop locally?

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – A Newport business owner was one of several locally owned businesses to testify before an Arkansas Senate committee last week. According to Jamie Darling, owner of Darling's Fine Things, a bill requiring out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax is currently sitting on the desk of Governor Mike Beebe. Darling said the bill, if signed, would create a more competitive environment among Arkansas' small business owners.

According to the Main Street Fairness Act, companies will be required to collect Arkansas sales tax if their annual sales in the state exceed $10,000. Previous reports from the Associated Press claim Wal-Mart has backed the legislation. The AP also stated online retailers such as Amazon have opposed similar pieces of legislation in other states.

"I went to testify on behalf of small business owners like myself and main street USA, basically to level the playing field so that small businesses like mine aren't held to a disadvantage over big online retailers," said Darling.

According to "Stand with Main Street Arkansas," the fairness act goes over "Nexus" legislation. Its basic components require out-of-state companies to collect and remit sales tax on products sold to Arkansans. It states the bill will help the state collect lost sales tax dollars to help improve roads, schools and other line items in the state budget.

"Your Amazon and your Zappos aren't going to be here for that, but we are," said Darling. "Probably 99.9% of consumers don't know that you're required, if you do much online shopping, to pay your online sales tax to the state of Arkansas."

Darling is one of many business owners in support of the measure. She said she's been in contact with Mary Horne, owner of J. Christopher Toys in Jonesboro. Horne said she's started up an initiative to push consumers to shop local. She said 24 local companies in Jonesboro have expressed interest in the shop local experience.

According to Horne in an email, the group is named Think Local. Who Would You Miss? Support and Win. Local businesses have been participating in the program, which requires participating companies to let customers write down the three businesses they would miss most in Jonesboro if they were to close. The group's first meeting was in February.

Horne said monthly winners will be chosen for a drawing in which all businesses would provide a "goodie basket" of items from each store. Horne said her mission is to educate the community on the perks of shopping locally.

Darling said she's been in contact with Horne about what can be done in Newport. Darling said she believes businesses should think regionally instead of locally.

"I think it's important for us as consumers and as good stewards in our towns to do as much shopping local at locally owned independent stores as we can," said Darling. "We're the ones that are here every day employing your kids, giving money to the schools for different activities or different things in the community that are necessary to help keep the community going."

What do you think? Should online businesses be required to collect sales tax for the state of Arkansas? Post your opinions on the Region 8 News Facebook page. Click here for the link.

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