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Mississippi Lawmakers Could See Internet As Key To Revenues

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 27 Dec 2011 12:13pm | comments
Governor Haley barbour at a recent speech

With the state's tax revenues growing slowly, and Mississippi facing a tight budget, law makers could look for ways to add to state coffers during the next legislative session.

One possible source of revenue is the collection of sales tax for items sold over the Internet in Mississippi.

Out-going Governor Haley Barbour says the Internet has grown so much that a federal moratorium intended to help fledgling Internet merchants is no longer necessary.

"The time is long past due for the Federal government to admit that the moratorium is no long need, and that it was always supposed to be temporary, and that any state that chooses to should be allowed to collect their taxes," Barbour said.

It is not clear how much money the tax would bring in, but Governor-Elect Phil Bryant is more skeptical of the idea, calling it a tax hike.

"At the end of the day, the family that is trying to make ends meet that perhaps is doing some purchasing on the Internet is going to have to pay that tax," Bryant said.

Through years of Recession, declining revenues, and budget cuts Mississippi lawmakers have been reluctant to raise taxes.

Mississippi State University Journalist in Residence Sid Salter says the online sales tax could help state revenues without forcing lawmakers to call it a tax hike.

"There is a sentiment, not just in Mississippi, but a growing sentiment across the country that those businesses should be at the same competitive advantage as the mom and pop hardware stores. I think that is the one area where you might see the state consider, not new taxes, but the full collection of an existing tax," Salter said.

The US congress is considering a couple of bills that would allow states to begin collecting sales tax on online goods, with exemptions for small companies.

Retail groups are split on the issue, some seeing it as a matter of fairness, and others are concerned about navigating the rules of the roughly 75-hundred tax jurisdictions across the country.

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Governor Haley barbour at a recent speech


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