Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TOP STORY >> Councils for internet sales tax

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville and Ward became the latest of several cities in the state to support taxing products sold on the internet by passing ordinances asking the state legislature to approve the tax collection.

An effort to apply the tax to internet sales in the last legislative session fell short. State Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) told the Jacksonville City Council on Thursday that this is not a new tax. “The state has actually had a law since 1948 requiring tax be paid on out-of-state purchases.”

He explained that one concern many legislators have is a case in front of the Supreme Court, which could be costly to states that have been collecting the tax, if the judge rules against the tax. “All collected money would have to be refunded then,” Johnson said.

Jacksonville passed the resolution unanimously. The Ward City Council passed a similar resolution Monday by a vote of 3-2. One alderman was absent.

The resolution urges Gov. Asa Hutchinson to call a special session as quickly as possible to address “this most important issue for the benefit of all of Arkansas’ local retailers and businesses as well as its citizens.”

Jacksonville and Ward join more than two dozen cities that have passed this type of resolution in just the past few weeks.

Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Municipal League, said cities are seeing the difference with Amazon starting to collect taxes.

“Amazon started collecting tax on items they sell directly in March, and we saw tax collections up about 6 percent last month and 7.2 percent the month before that. But Amazon is only collecting on their sales, not any of their third-party sales,” Zimmerman said.

“Not taxing Internet sales hurts cities, counties and the state. The lose out on that money, but it really hurts the local business that lost out on that sale completely,” he added.

Mayor Gary Fletch-er pointed out that Black Friday sales are decreasing and Cyber Monday sales are doubling every three years. He added that many cities are already looking at taxes and other means to make up for the loss of revenue.

“It’s a train wreck that’s coming if we don’t do something,” the mayor said.

Officials in Springdale have calculated that residents of that city are making more than 500,000 internet purchases a month and the city is losing that tax money.

Fletcher told Johnson, “We need relief today.”

Johnson said the bill to tax the Internet is important to small businesses everywhere and was about seven votes short in the legislature, but more are coming on board.

He clarified that this was not a new tax and that the tax would go to the point of delivery location. “We don’t want someone here buying something in Boston and having the tax go up there. It needs to come here.”

In other council business:

Aldermen approved the sale of about an acre of property actually located in Cabot. The property, under control of the Jacksonville Hospital Board, is home to the Cabot Medical Clinic, but the acre in question is vacant land that will be used for retail and office space.

The monthly police report for May was presented to the aldermen for review and comment. According to the report the police department received 4,010 complaint calls in May.

There were no homicides reported during the month, three sexual assaults, 24 felony assaults, 19 burglaries, 63 thefts and nine vehicle thefts.

Code enforcement officers had 142 assigned calls and 661 self-initiated calls in May. Officers issued 95 warnings, wrote 126 warning letters or notices, removed 70 signs and mowed 83 properties because owners didn’t respond to letters to maintain the properties.

The May fire department report, presented by Chief Alan Laughy, said the department responded to 278 rescue calls, 23 service calls, 16 false alarms, 11 fires, 12 hazardous conditions and seven good intent calls.

Estimated fire loss for May was put at $188,500 and savings, due to the quick response of the fire department was estimated at $271,500.

The department also had 219 transported ambulance runs and 87 non-transported runs.

In May City Engineer Jay Whisker reported his department issued 12 building permits, six business licenses and 118 inspections.

He also had the June report available showing 19 building permits and five business licenses issued, along with 114 inspections.

In the May animal shelter report, it showed the shelter brought in 96 dogs and 92 cats. Animal control officers were able to return 31 dogs and one cat to their owners, adopt out 39 dogs and 62 cats and had to euthanize one dog and one cat.