CUNNINGHAM: Louisiana Should Drop Its Internet Sales Tax For Now

With so many government guidelines out right now telling us to practice social distancing and avoid going out in public in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the questions that comes up is how we’re going to make sure people can get the essentials if they are essentially being asked to self-quarantine.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that states can collect sales taxes on Internet purchases from companies who have any sort of presence in a state, even if it’s a warehouse. It’s up to a state whether or not to collect those sales taxes, though, and sadly Louisiana is one of the many states that does collect them.

But, in an era where people are being told to stay in and avoid crowds, we have to find ways to help people get the things they need without having to regularly go to the supermarkets or other stores to get them.

Louisiana’s legislature has stayed in session despite the crisis, and to the governor’s credit, he has been quick to make good calls in response to the pandemic. Because Louisiana’s government is working right now, they should come together and grant the citizens – their constituents – an Internet sales tax holiday that lasts at least as long as the schools and public events are shut down in the state.

In doing so, they would be encouraging people to use Amazon and other retailers in order to get the supplies they needed, and in some cases that does include food. That substantially limits their contact with others, yet it ensures they get what they need.

We can argue the necessity of an Internet sales tax until we’re all blue in the face. We can talk revenue and how we’re going to pay for this or that, but ultimately what it comes down to is how do we best protect our people. And, to do that, we have to give them every opportunity to get what they need without going outside and risk exposing themselves or others to COVID-19.

To do that, we need to incentivize people using these online services. We also need to incentivize these companies to make investments in our state in terms of infrastructure so we can maximize their output to Louisiana citizens, whether it be in times of crisis or not. But arguments on business climate can come later. Right now, let’s get people shopping online for what they need while they’re at home for a few weeks and avoiding a pandemic.

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