- Shopping for back to school supplies online might appear to save you a few dollars, but it could break tax laws.
Diane Pilat of Rollie and Helen's Musky Shop says, "When they come into the shop we physically get to meet people, see people."
Unfortunately those days are disappearing.
But the Musky Shop isn't going down without a fight, Pilat says,
"As long as we keep doing our job and making the changes necessary and our customers are happy, our online store should grow as well. We can only hope for that."
This, of course, is good news for the local business, but it's also hurting the local tax revenue stream and area business to go online, something Mike Kercheval of the International Council of Shopping Centers knows all to well, "It's not just about the sales tax, it's about the health of those retailers and the jobs that those local retailers in our towns create. A million dollars of retail sales creates four jobs. A million dollars of online retail maybe creates one job."
He says buying online also hurts locally because people rarely pay sales tax when they purchase somewhere other than Wisconsin, "Consumers now are learning that they actually do have to pay those taxes. Some of them are learning the hard way when the state tax man goes after them and says, 'you owe those taxes.'"
Now small businesses are working together to lure you in with the internet.
Minocqua Chamber Director Kim Baltus says, "One of the things we do is what we call our "Hot Deals." We allow businesses, whether it be retail business or accommodations to put hot deals on the front page of our website."
Because Pilat says driving traffic from the site to the store means a stronger economy at home, "If they come into the store they have to pay Wisconsin and Oneida County sales tax."
Even Washington is working on legislation to make sure local online retailers see their fair share by putting control of taxes in the hands of the states.
So the next time you make an online order, consider this, it may save you more to take a short drive into town.
According to a University of Tennessee study, states are expected to lose as much as $23 billion this year in uncollected revenue due to online-only sellers not collecting sales taxes.
Rollie and Helen's Musky Shop
Minocqua Chamber of Commerce
International Council of Shopping Centers