CASPER, Wyo. — Millennials are taking to Facebook to protest a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
As of Thursday, more than 3,500 people had bombarded Enzi’s Facebook page with messages imploring him to kill legislation that could allow states to collect taxes from online purchases.
The protest launched less than a week before the Senate takes its final vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act on Monday.
The nonprofit Generation Opportunity is spearheading the initiative to blast the senator’s comment wall. The Washington, D.C.-based organization represents people 15 to 30 years old.
When lawmakers attack the Internet “we get mad,” said Evan Feinberg, president of Generation Opportunity. The group mobilized a campaign to swarm and rebuke the law via social media and vows that there will be a “war” in the Senate when the bill hits the floor for a vote on Monday.
“We don’t want federal or state governments taxing the Internet,” he said. “If the young people’s voices are heard, it will tip the scales in favor of freedom.”
There’s been plenty of confusion over the legislation, and people shouldn't trust everything they read on the Internet, Enzi spokesman Daniel Head said in a statement to the Star-Tribune.
“It does not tax the Internet or tax Internet usage,” he said.
Enzi’s Facebook page was jammed with comments on Wednesday and Thursday from people who wrote, “I don’t want your tax” and “No Internet tax.” There were other, less dignifying criticisms as well.
“It’s understandable that people and organizations want to make their voices heard on an issue, but there is something off-putting about guerilla tactics like this,” Head said. “It makes it harder for Wyoming residents to find their way through the smoke to ask their questions and express their concerns about other issues, and Wyoming residents are the individuals that Senator Enzi concentrates on.
"These kind of tactics are common. When faxes were the preferred method of communication, organized groups would put on a blitz and purposely tie up the fax lines.”
States will not be required to impose the tax if they don’t want to, and not a single dime will go to Washington, Head said.
Brick and mortar businesses have been lobbying in favor of the tax for years, citing an unfair advantage for online commerce. People use retail stores as showrooms to look at items, then go online and buy them for less, Enzi told the Star-Tribune in April.
“Particularly with large items, the difference between the item in the store and online is the amount of sales tax,” Enzi said.
The law will inevitably raise the price of goods purchased online, but the bill doesn’t propose a new tax. Retailers currently aren't obliged to collect the sales tax thanks to the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Quill vs. North Dakota, which gave online retailers the choice whether to collect the tax and, therefore, put the onus on shoppers to pay the tax.
Americans who buy something online are required to go to their state's department of revenue and pay the sales tax on items they buy in the virtual marketplace. But widespread online shopping makes government enforcement impossible. Enzi’s bill would close the loophole and bring more money to states, cities, towns and counties at a time of budget belt-tightening.
Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, has come out in support of the legislation along with Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target.
Small businesses earning less than $1 million a year would be exempt. Ebay is opposed to enforcing the tax because some of its vendors would be required to go along with the change. The company is pushing for a $10 million exemption.
One of the biggest complaints about the law is compliance. With more than 9,600 tax jurisdictions in the nation, retailers are upset that they will have to learn all of the nation’s codes and be forced to send checks to cities, towns, counties and states to comply with the law.
That’s not true, said Daniela Saunders, senior vice president for FedTax.
The Seattle-based company created sales tax software called TaxCloud to make life easy for retailers who comply with the law if it goes into effect. The service is free. There are similar programs available, but TaxCloud is the only one that comes without cost to vendors, she said.
Twenty-four states have verified that TaxCloud has filed the correct rates for the nation’s 9,600 jurisdictions. All retailers will have to do is provide the program a bank account and tax information. States will pay FedTax a commission not exceeding 8 percent from the sales tax revenues they collect, Saunders said.
When an online vendor sells a product to an out-of-state customer, the vendor will input the price, state of sale and a zip code. TaxCloud collects the money from the retailer and will send the state the cash and a report at the end of the month that outlines how the money should be divided to different sectors of state governments, Saunders said.
“Computers make it possible to do things we once thought were impossible,” she said.