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Making cyber merchants pay

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Cyber Monday, online retailers' response the Monday after Thanksgiving to Black Friday, is getting more attention, and local retailers and state and local governments don't like it. Online retailers can charge lower prices, and because they don't collect sales taxes, governments don't get the same tax revenue from cyber sales that they do from local sales.

A change in federal law would be required to make all online sellers collect taxes uniformly in all the states. A bill to make such a change is before Congress, but there is strong opposition.

"Arkansas will lose an estimated $113 million in sales tax revenue this year on Internet purchases and lose more from untaxed catalog, phone and other 'remote sales,' " the nonprofit group Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said in a recent report. It can collect new revenues:

• Tax digital downloads, such as music, videos, games and books, that are purchased from online services in the same way that comparable items, such as compact discs purchased at local stores, are taxed.

• Encourage individual taxpayers to self-remit the taxes they owe for on-line purchases by providing a line on the state income tax form.

• Provide that government contracts with the state can go only to companies that agree to charge sales taxes on all sales in the state.

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