State has lost billions in sales tax revenue over decade

Monday, May 14, 2012

Although Internet sales continue to grow, many states, including Missouri, have no means of capturing sales tax on those purchases.

Researchers at the University of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs recently found that the state lost about $468 million annually in sales tax revenue during the past decade.

Federal law and U.S. Supreme Court rulings only allow states to charge sales taxes on a business with a bricks and mortar presence in the state.

For example, Amazon.com does not charge sales tax in Missouri because it is physically located in California. But Walmart charges sales tax because it has stores in Missouri. In the study, researchers analyzed historical data on e-commerce activity and estimated that Missouri could miss out on $1.4 billion in potential revenue from online purchases from 2011 to 2014.

Twenty-four states have now joined the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement in an attempt to collect some sales tax from online purchases. Missouri is not a member state.

Those states encourage companies that sell over the Internet and by mail order to collect taxes on sales made to member states, but participation is voluntary. On average, member states collected $30.7 million in e-commerce tax revenue from 2005 to 2010. The amount collected would be much greater if businesses were legally compelled to participate.

The Marketplace Fairness Act now under consideration by Congress, co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, would give states additional enforcement power to increase compliance with tax laws.

* The Missouri Department of Labor recognized the Altenburg Hardwood Co. of Altenburg, Mo., as the newest member of the Missouri's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) for its excellent workplace safety record. Altenburg Hardwood was honored during a ceremony during which the company was presented with a certificate of recognition, a SHARP flag for display outside the facility and a proclamation issued by Gov. Jay Nixon. The Missouri's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program is to provide incentives and support to smaller, high-hazard employers to work with their employees to develop, implement and continually improve the effectiveness of their workplace safety and health programs. Altenburg Hardwood employs 54 people in Missouri. A large portion of its product is kiln-dried and shipped throughout the United States and exported to Belgium and Spain where it is used to manufacture furniture, cabinets, doors and molding. The green lumber sold is used for trailer flooring, switch ties, board roads and other uses.

"As a company, we've invested a great deal in machinery, process and training to protect our employees on the job," production manager Kevin Engert said. "Our safety committee has implemented a Safety Incentive Program which we feel has played a huge role in achieving this award." To date, 37 businesses in Missouri have earned the SHARP recognition.

* The city of Perryville, Mo., has a new marketing tool to promote its community. A logo, right, was developed by The Wright Group in Perryville, and based on public input provided through an online survey, as well as input from the mayor and board of aldermen. "Our survey results indicated respondents had a strong preference that our logo should contain elements of family, nature and trees/landscaping," city administrator Brent Buerck said. "Given that, we sought to create a logo that separated us from other cities but also reflected who we are as a community." The city will update its signage over time to reflect the new design. The logo is part of a larger community rebranding process that will include a website scheduled to be completed around Thanksgiving, Buerck said.

Southeast Missourian business editor Melissa Miller may be contacted at 388-3646 or mmiller@semissourian.com.

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