SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 17, 2012

Here's one tax you can celebrate

Taxpayers won’t be as happy next Christmas season, when they have to start paying the state’s 6.25-percent sales taxes on their online Amazon purchases. But if those same taxpayers like having bricks-and-mortar stores in their downtowns, the change will be cause for rejoicing.

Gov. Deval Patrick announced last week that a deal had been reached to have the giant online business start collecting Massachusetts sales tax starting next fall. It had been the subject of a “Main Streets Fairness” campaign, spurred by a coalition backed by several local officials, including mayors Kim Driscoll of Salem and Ted Bettencourt of Peabody.

The issue is what’s become a relatively common shopping practice of treating local stores as showrooms, where you can check out a book or try on the clothing you want. Then shoppers head online to do the actual purchasing because they can often find cheaper prices. In part, that’s because online businesses like Amazon don’t have the costs associated with running traditional stores and in part because, until now, they’ve been exempt from collecting local sales taxes.

This deal helps to level the playing field and to keep our homegrown stores here and thriving. Local stores like Mud Puddle Toys (Salem and Marblehead), Pamplemousse (Salem), Casa de Moda in Beverly, The Book Shop of Beverly Farms and many others add character and vibrancy to local life, provide welcome alternatives to the chain retailers at the malls, and give back to their communities in everything from scholarship drives to charity fundraisers. They’re well worth supporting, even if it means an online tax.

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