TruST Seeks Catalog Shoppers Input on Marketplace Fairness Act

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The True Simplification of Taxation, also known as TruST, is asking millions of catalog shoppers to let the House Judiciary Committee know how the passing of the Marketplace Fairness Act could affect them as shoppers.

According to TruST, many merchants who use a catalog as a sales tool – including Harriet Carter, Healthy Directions, Bluestone Perennials, Anthony Richards, Healthy Living, Potpourri, and NorthStyle – will include a postcard in the packaging of a recent purchase asking customers to contact Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to “ensure that the Marketplace Fairness Act requires uniform definitions, common tax, rates, and other common sense simplifications recommended by TruST.”

The postcard addressed to Goodlatte ends with “Please don’t let the MFA drive up costs and confusion that could discourage millions of shoppers like me who rely on catalogs.”

According to the postcard, which was obtained by Multichannel Merchant from TruST, catalogers say that the Marketplace Fairness Act is “unfair to catalog shoppers” because it will make it more difficult for shoppers to purchase products from home. The postcard states that the proposed act “will make today’s simple ordering process complicated and burdensome.”

TruST co-founder Louis Giesler, who is also the CEO of AmeriMark, said in a recent phone interview that many of his customers do not even think the Marketplace Fairness Act applies to them. Part of his goal of sending out the postcards, Giesler said, was to help educate catalog shoppers about sales tax and give them an easy way to reach out to congressional leaders.

If the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act, Giesler said, were to pass, it make the ordering process too confusing for a catalog shopper and, he feared, would ultimately create a “disenfranchised” consumer.

AmeriMark, he said, allows shoppers to buy products online and through a catalog. In fact, 35% of his customer base comes from catalogs and $3 million in revenue came in from catalogs last year alone.

When asked how his fellow catalogers felt about the proposed act, Giesler said, “Many of them feel like I do, if the Marketplace Fairness Act passed in its current form, it could kills us.”

According to a 2012 survey of 78 catalog companies by the American Catalog Mailers Association, in 2012 alone 9.3% of customer orders came from mail-in order forms from catalogs, 46.6% came from online sales, and 44.3% came from phone orders. Those stats also represent a quarter of all catalogs mailed in 2012.

David French, senior vice president for government relations with the National Retail Federation, said in a statement that “TruST lies to consumers when they gloss over the reality that catalog shoppers are legally obligated to pay a ‘use tax’ on catalog purchases in 45 states.  Sales tax compliance is almost always less burdensome for consumers than use tax compliance.”

While catalogers are expressing displeasure with the Marketplace Fairness Act, smaller retailers have come out publicly on the need for such an act which could help level the playing field between internet and main street retailers.

The House Judiciary Committee recently issued basic principles pertaining to the issue of Internet sales tax. To develop these principles, the Committee received input directly from taxpayers, industry and trade groups, and representatives of state and local governments. The principles are intended to guide discussion on this issue and spark creative solutions.