Local businesses rooting for sales tax on internet purchases

Posted at 10:57 PM, Dec 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-13 22:57:56-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—With less than two weeks to go, the countdown is on to finish your holiday shopping. For those looking to avoid crowds, shopping online from the comfort of their own home is the best way to get it done. Also, it comes with a bonus: no sales tax on items from big online retailers like Amazon, Overstock or E-Bay.

However, that money saver could soon be a thing of the past. It comes on the heels of the passage of a state Senate bill last week, and it will require online retailers to charge sales tax.

Some local retailers think an online tax is a great idea. Local Grand Rapids businesses like Humanity, a clothing store, and The Plate Boutique, kitchenware store, just want it to be a level playing field, so when busy shopping seasons come around like Christmas they can count on getting just as many customers.

Kaylee Hochsteler, and her boyfriend, John Macomber of Caledonia are rushing to get everything checked off their list. They love buying thoughtful gifts from local stores in Grand Rapids. Although they are racing the clock, they refuse to take the easy route, and order it online with a couple clicks on their computer.

“Personally I prefer in-person-shopping. You get to see it, get your hands on it, and really get to experience it before you buy it,” said Macomber.

The Plate Boutique, a kitchen store where the products promote health,  love when their customers choose to buy local. What Sarah Schuetz, a registered dietitian and store manager of The Plate Boutique, doesn't like is that in terms of a sales tax it’s not an even playing field when competing with large online retailers.

“Not every company offers the tax, so that is potential problem for a brick and mortar small business, because we do our best to be competitive, but if the customer doesn’t have to pay the extra few dollars or more than a few dollars depending on what item your buying in tax that might be incentive for them to not come to our store,” said Scheutz

For example, Schuetz favorite product called the Lekue that allows people to make an entire meal in the microwave in just 10 minutes can also be found on Amazon for the same price except Amazon doesn’t charge the 6% sales tax.

Something Deborah Hunt, owner of the clothing store Humanity, says isn't good for the local business community.

“We are for having people taxed. We need the money in our community, and it just helps everybody, so I really think there needs to be an online tax,” said Hunt.