PUTNAM POSTING: ‘Internet Fairness’ Should Include Taxing Sales Equally

Jennifer Maher | June 5, 2018

A recent letter to the editor in a local newspaper regarding the proposed “Internet Fairness Conformity Tax” stated there are opposing views on this act here within our county. I see this act as an opportunity to level the playing field for smaller “Main Street” businesses. While obviously we all agree that taxes are out of control on every level, but in this case our state has allowed the small, brick and mortar businesses carry this burden alone. Sales tax has been on a rapidly declining trend since the Great Recession, partly due to the increase in online shopping.

Brick and mortar retail stores have seen a decrease in revenue resulting in loss of local jobs. According to an article published by North County News, the 2017 Government Accountability Office report estimates that New York State is not collecting between $500 million and $900 million annually due to sales transactions occurring over the Internet. The Internet Fairness Conformity Tax proposal would close a substantial portion of the gap. According to the Governor’s Office, in the first year of implementation, the proposal is estimated to generate $318 million—$159 million in revenue for the counties and another $159 million for the state.

While, I still am of the opinion that small businesses should all be online, it’s time to close this loophole; local budgets rely on sales tax to offset property taxes. In Putnam County, often you hear grumbling about the county not sharing the sales tax revenue, but the county is providing important public services, including keeping the towns and villages whole on delinquent property taxes. Local business owners will be relieved to know that they will now be able to offer their goods at a similar or more competitive price than the online giants. Small retailers will compete on the quality of service and products, not sales tax.

New York State does overtax us and make it difficult to live here, but that is more related to school tax reform. That is the elephant in the room that no one seems to be willing to tackle.

So What’s Happening In Cold Spring?

It was fun to share a recent lunch with Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce President Katie Liberman, who is also managing director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Liberman was kind enough to drive over to my side of the county to meet at Dish, one of my all-time favorite places to eat. It was her first experience there and she got to meet the Chef/Owner, Peter Milano. This type of cross pollination is important to the business community, so please ask your network to introduce you to new businesses and their owners at your next meeting!

Liberman gave an update on all the exciting happenings in Cold Spring. First, the annual Cold Spring Chamber Summer Music Series is starting soon at Dockside Park (bands TBA) June 24, July 22, Aug. 26 and Sept. 23. Also, Cold Spring is working on a map that will be available at the visitors’ center. Businesses can get in on this great promotional opportunity!

Many changes are happening on Main Street in Cold Spring, such as the opening of Chapeau 2 Depot Square, which took place Memorial Day Weekend. Despite the name this is not a hat shop. Owner Archie Broady, a passionate collector, says it’s a mix of “whatever I like” in art, furnishing, and clothes. Nearby is Hudson Drift at Bijou Galleries at 50 Main St. Many have wondered what’s happening in Bijou Gallery’s left-hand storefront window. Wonder no longer! They are going to turn the front window space into an art gallery and sell original sculptures, wall plaques, and mobiles made of driftwood and granite.

Split Rock Books, 97 Main St, is opening also, and many will enjoy having a local bookstore offering children’s books, gifts, and potential additions to our home libraries. A few vacancies exist on Main Street as well, which are really opportunities for new businesses.

Jennifer Maher
Jennifer Maher is a partner of J. Philip Real Estate and Founding Chairwoman of the Putnam County Business Council.