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IPFS News Link • TAXES: Internet

What the Internet Sales Tax Is All About

• https://fee.org, By John Tamny

Just curious, but if a Washington, D.C. resident buys a pack of cigarettes in Arlington, VA, should this person pay a sales tax to the District of Columbia? Figure that cigarettes cost roughly $5.25/pack in Virginia versus $7.99 in D.C. Arlington retailers have a significant tax advantage over merchants in the District, so to "level the playing field" shouldn't D.C. residents hand over the difference in taxes? The tax will ensure that Washington residents don't cross the bridge in order to get a better deal, and in the process imperil Capitol-based businesses.

It all sounds right, doesn't it? If businesses in low-tax areas exploit the tax difference, Washington's retailers could be in a world of hurt, as will be its tax base.

Except that tax competition among cities and states serves a very real purpose: it forces local taxing authorities to think long and hard before helping themselves to more of what we earn. Absent our ability to take our consumption elsewhere, what's the incentive for local and state legislators to keep taxes low? Also, we seem to forget that local businesses, precisely because they're local, have the ultimate sales advantage in that they're nearby, sometimes walking distance, plus they enjoy name recognition that declines the farther the business is away from the consumer.


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