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Collecting, Remitting Online Sales Taxes is a Pro-Business Policy
As of January 1, 2017, new e-fairness legislation in Louisiana prompted online mega-retailers like Amazon to collect and remit state and local sales taxes to the proper authorities, just as brick-and-mortar businesses have always been required to do. 
 
Recently, WWL reported that Senator John Kennedy is unhappy about this new legislation citing that 1) the state should not charge consumers sales tax for online purchases, 2) the Louisiana Department of Revenue is not fairly enforcing the law, and 3) the law threatens to “kill the internet.” Kennedy’s comments not only contain several inaccuracies but also overlook how this policy supports Louisiana businesses by leveling the playing field and allowing them to compete fairly with online retailers. 
 
Kennedy states, “You’ve got to ask where this money’s coming from, and I can tell you where it’s coming from. It’s not falling from heaven, it’s coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.” His implication is that this represents a new tax; it is not. In theory, consumers were required to keep track of their online purchases and then pay the appropriate amount owed in sales tax as “use tax” on their state tax return. In practice, this “fair use tax law” was nearly unenforceable. Few online shoppers knew about the requirement and even fewer actually reported their purchases.  Estimates place the 2015 collection rate at less than 1 percent.
 
Kennedy also claims that “[the Louisiana Department of Revenue] ought to enforce the law if they think the money’s due.” This is a specious argument. In effect, Kennedy’s suggestion is a call to expand government oversight exponentially, rather than simply shifting the responsibility from the consumer to the seller, online mega-retailers, in fairness to brick-and-mortars. E-fairness legislation also solves the tax collection issue in a simple, logical way that frees both consumers and the Department of Revenue from regulating individual purchases.
 
Finally, Kennedy remarks, “If you give government the right to get money as a result of people’s interaction with the internet, government will never stop, and they’ll kill the internet sooner or later.” Here, Kennedy erroneously conflates equitable tax collection policy with government overreach and stifling the free market. In Orleans Parish, where sales taxes are 10 percent, companies like Amazon were granted, in effect, a nearly 10 percent price advantage over brick-and-mortar businesses. Acts 87 and 1129 create a fair marketplace, where Louisiana businesses are no longer at a competitive disadvantage and can thrive and grow to their full potential.
 
Kennedy’s negative comments are premised on a common misperception about e-fairness, and this is that it places an onerous burden on online retailers. The fact is, Amazon already collects sales taxes in 29 states; there's no reason it cannot do so in Louisiana, too. Further, until this legislation was enacted, Louisiana was leaving millions of dollars it was entitled to in Amazon’s hands. Collecting online sales tax will allow the state legislature to reduce Louisiana’s $600 million budget deficit, including the $304 million shortfall this fiscal year alone. Amazon and Empty Storefronts, a recent report by economic analysis firm Civic Economics, found that Amazon avoided $68.1 million in Louisiana sales tax in 2015. In the midst of a statewide budget crisis, equitably collecting sales tax from Amazon will significantly contribute to funding essential services such as infrastructure repair, economic development projects, and police and fire protection.
 
E-fairness legislation is not about demonizing online retailers as Kennedy states. It is a pro-business policy that ensures fair and equal taxation for both brick-and-mortar businesses and online mega-retailers. Louisiana based businesses can stay competitive on a national level and keep our state and local economies strong. After all, study upon study shows that local, independent businesses are the largest employers of our residents, they protect our local character, and they keep our hard earned dollars circulating among the individuals who work to support our communities’ well-being.
 
Kennedy describes collecting online sales tax as a “slippery slope.” I disagree. This legislation is a line in the sand signaling that we stand with our Louisiana businesses, statewide economic growth and job creation.
 
Abigail Sebton is the Policy and Research Coordinator for StayLocal, Greater New Orleans’ independent business alliance.  Learn more at staylocal.org.
 
Ubuntu Village: Show Your Love campaign
Ubuntu Village invites you to join their "Show Your Love" campaign this September through December! Ubuntu means “I am because we are.” At Ubuntu, they know it takes everyone in our community for us to be a healthy thriving community. They know that residents in New Orleans and Nationally show love for their families, neighbors and communities every day in all kinds of ways. They are asking you to join this campaign by showing up more in various actions in your community, and giving more of yourself to help others.   Ways You Can Show Love for Your Neighbor Pay it Forward; Pay for someone’s coffee, groceries or food Help an elder carry their groceries or mow their lawn Babysit your neighbor’s kids so they can have an evening off   Ways You Can Show Love for Your Community Stay Local; Buy from local stores and businesses Support your local gardens and farmers Register to Vote Eat out at local restaurants Support local artists and musicians Volunteer at a local organization or church   Ways Churches, Organizations and Businesses Can Show Love for their Community Mentoring and sharing the Gospel of Love Hold an event in the community where you are located Give a discount on services or goods at your business   Ways You Can Show Love for Ubuntu Village’s “Show Your Love” Campaign Come to our Show Your Love Campaign Kickoff & Fundraiser: Thursday September 28 at the Ashe Cultural Center Post the ways you show love to the Show Your Love Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram Be part of the show your love video Contact us to join the campaign: info@ubuntuvillagenola.org 
Independent Business Meet-up: Green Drinks and Local Gifts
Independent Business Meet-up: Green Drinks and Local Gifts - Holiday Market   December 14th | 5-8pm
 | New Orleans Healing Center
 (2372 St Claude Ave) More to come!
Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday National Shopping Holiday   On November 25th millions of Americans across the country set out to shop for holiday gifts at their favorite local businesses for Small Business Saturday! Small Business Saturday is a national shopping event between Black Friday and Cyber Monday that encourages consumers to shop at local businesses.  StayLocal as well as our local and national partners are in the thick of planning for this national campaign! Check back for more details.
Small Business Saturday Workshop & Kick-off Party
Want take part in the year's biggest independent shopping day? StayLocal has everything you need to make Small Business Saturday a success!  Small Business Saturday is a national shopping event between Black Friday and Cyber Monday that encourages consumers to shop at local businesses. This year it will be on November 25th! On that day, millions of Americans across the country set out to shop for holiday gifts at their favorite local businesses.   StayLocal wants your business to have its best Small Business Saturday yet! At the Kick-Off Party we'll hand out FREE Shop Small swag and have local PR expert Nayita Wilson, CEO of NVisions Communications and Consulting present ideas for sales, events, and promotions to drive customers to your store on Small Business Saturday and beyond. Doors open at 5pm for swag pick-up and networking. Presentation starts at 6pm. WHEN: November 2nd from 5-7pm
 WHERE: Mid-City Yacht Club (440 S St Patrick St) COST: Free RSVP: http://bit.ly/2wVk9jr About Nayita Wilson Nayita Wilson is Founder & CEO of NVisions Communications & Consulting-a vision driven public relations and strategic communications agency. Under her leadership, NVisions consults and advances PR, media, community outreach, events and branding campaigns for nonprofit, business, political and governmental clients.    Nayita is also author of "PR That PRopels – A Proactive Guide to Building Winning Public Relations Strategies," and regularly facilitates PR and strategic communications trainings for associations, executives and leaders from various sectors. Nayita previously served as Deputy Director of Public Information for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office, worked in nonprofit communications and fund development, and maintains a working journalism portfolio. She has written extensively for The Louisiana Weekly, New Orleans City Business, Southern Woman Magazine and other publications. A native of Marrero, Louisiana, Nayita is an alumna of Dillard University where she studied English and mass communications. She is passionate about aligning with leaders and organizations that make positive and meaningful impact in the communities and markets they serve.
"Take Part in the Tricentennial Celebration" - webinar
To celebrate 300 years of rich history, diversity, cultural traditions and resilience, the City of New Orleans will celebrate 2018 like no other.    StayLocal wants to make sure our local businesses are aware of opportunities to be a part of this massive campaign. During the webinar, Jeremy Cooker for the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation and Mary Kate Hutchinson from FSC Interactive will share upcoming events, marketing resources, and more to help your business take part in the tricentennial celebration.    If there is one thing us locals are good at, it’s celebrating! WHEN: Tuesday, October 24th from 11am - 12pm WHERE: Online RSVP: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3881738226273469699 *The webinar will be recorded More on the Tricentennial at 2018nola.com