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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.
 
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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 
VenturePOP Conference: September 30 + October 1
Calling all creatives! The third annual VenturePOP Conference is taking place September 30 + October 1 at the New Orleans Museum of Art.   VenturePOP is a two-day experience created specifically for creative professionals to get re-inspired, continue their education and connect with a community on the same mission.   If you relate to any of the following, VenturePop is for you: you're looking to build a creative business you’re struggling with mapping out a clear course and confidently sticking to a game plan you're in need of a fresh perspective and need to be reinvigorated you're looking for a community of ambitious creative types to help hold you accountable and have your back big picture planning always gets put on the back burner   Speakers include: Adam J. Kurtz Cyndie Spiegel Dannie Fountain Maggie Gentry Miller Maya Elious Justin Shiels Mallory Whitfield Learn more about the conference at venturepopconference.com   Use discount code NOLALOVE to get $100 off your ticket price (offer expires August 31st).  
New Orleans Restaurant Month To Support Local Businesses
The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau (NOCVB) invites Louisiana residents to rediscover New Orleans by taking advantage of the city’s cultural attractions and dining options through Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown and COOLinary New Orleans Restaurant Month, the NOCVB’s annual summer campaigns. Both campaigns encourage locals to experience their hometown through the eyes of visitors while supporting the businesses that have made New Orleans one of the most culturally authentic destinations in the world. The 13th annual COOLinary New Orleans Restaurant Month offers special two- and three-course lunch menus for $20 or less and three-course dinner and brunch menus for $39 or less at more than 85 premiere restaurants across the city. You can enjoy award-winning chefs highlighting the authentic cuisine of New Orleans.  Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown takes place from August 1st-September 30th  and provides more than 135 deals and discounted rates at hotels, attractions, tours, dining options and more at www.touristathome.com.  You can make reservations at a new culinary hotspot or at a tried-and-true favorite, learn about the city’s history or landscape through a  tour, and more.  Followers of New Orleans tourism’s Instagram account @VisitNewOrleans are encouraged to tag #BeATouristNOLA on images showcasing their summer staycations and outings around the city for a chance to win one of four robust staycation packages. For official rules, visit www.touristathome.com. Learn more: www.COOLinaryneworleans.com  
BUSINESS SURVIVAL AFTER A DISASTER: BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING
Join us for an interactive workshop focused on Business Continuity Planning, which will provide you with lessons learned from other small business owners and allow you to develop a plan for your business. Experts will be on hand to help you to consider your business’s specific needs.