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Sen. Durbin pushes Internet sales tax legislation in Naperville

Anderson's Bookshop owner Becky Anderson and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin talk about proposed legislation that would require online retailers to collect sales tax from customers. (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)

Anderson's Bookshop owner Becky Anderson and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin talk about proposed legislation that would require online retailers to collect sales tax from customers. (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)

When customers enter Anderson’s Bookshop in downtown Naperville, they often want to pick employees’ brains for book recommendations.

But more and more, owner Becky Anderson is watching those patrons walk out empty-handed, opting to use her staff’s knowledge to buy books online in order to avoid paying sales tax.

“The fact is online retailers are exploiting a decades-old loophole,” Anderson said.

Anderson, president of the American Booksellers Association, brought U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to her shop Friday to talk about the legislation he is sponsoring to close that loophole.

“She’s doing what the law requires and also what her civic conscience requires to support the community she has her business located in,” Durbin said of Anderson. “Those who are competing with her, many of them, are not collecting the sales tax from their sales.”

Not only are bricks-and-mortar businesses suffering because of it, he said, but state, county and city governments also are losing out because they are not able to collect the tax dollars. Durbin estimates Illinois is losing $183 million annually in uncollected sales taxes from online retailers.

His legislation, dubbed the Marketplace Fairness Act, is sponsored by both Democrat and Republican senators. It would allow states to force online retailers to collect sales taxes using software that would calculate what buyers owe based on their address. The retailer would collect the tax during the transaction and send it to the correct state.

“This is not a new tax, it is an existing tax. … What we’re doing is really pushing for compliance, pushing for collection so the money comes back to the community,” Durbin said.

He and his co-sponsors plan to create an exemption for small online businesses, but are still working out the details.

Durbin has been pushing the sales tax legislation for years, but has met resistance from major online retailers. Now one of the largest, Amazon, has expressed its support.

“They’re tired of fight legislatures, they’re tired of fight courts,” Durbin said. “They want this to be done in a uniform, national way.”

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