IF YOU’VE EVER used eBay, you probably received a scary e-mail this week. The Senate is threatening small businesses, it warned. Complain to your legislators, it pleaded.
Actually, it isn’t, and you shouldn’t.
Senators appear ready to deflect the pressure. On Monday they advanced a bill that would allow states to collect sales tax from out-of-state online vendors. This will level the playing field for stores that have a physical presence, which are already charging tax on all local purchases. That is fair for retailers, good for state budgets and even beneficial for consumers who would rather shop in person. The Senate should follow through and pass the bill, which it could do as early as Wednesday.
Maybe brick-and-mortar stores will become obsolete. Maybe they will continue to serve a need, even in the age of Amazon. Government shouldn’t decide by unfairly favoring one outcome over the other. Treat all retailers the same way and let consumers decide. At the moment, the government is pushing consumers toward Internet retailers by failing to collect sales tax on many online transactions — an unprincipled, $11 billion annual tax giveaway.