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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

LI execs push to collect sales tax on all online purchases

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in January.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in January. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

ALBANY — The county executives of Nassau and Suffolk counties on Thursday lobbied the State Legislature to require online sellers such as Amazon and eBay to collect sales tax on all products sold to New Yorkers.

Currently, state law only requires online marketplaces to collect sales tax on products sold to New York residents from companies located within the state. The proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would expand tax collections to include all online sales and would increase annual sales tax revenue by $159 million for the state and $159 million for counties, the executives said.

“Our brick-and-mortar stores are at a competitive disadvantage against big businesses that do not play by the same rules,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We cannot afford to continue to subsidize these large businesses that do not collect the same sales tax revenue as our local storefronts.”

“I fully support the governor’s plan to ensure that counties receive their fair share of revenue and protect our small businesses,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

But the idea is opposed by the Republican Senate majority. “This proposal is a new tax on consumers, and therefore we don’t support its inclusion in the budget,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for the majority. “Senate Republicans support cutting taxes and focusing on policies that make it more affordable to live on Long Island.”

The Assembly’s Democratic majority supports the measure.

“It is important that New York has a level playing field so that our local stores and shops are not at a competitive disadvantage,” said Michael Whyland, spokesman for the Assembly majority.

The measure is in Cuomo’s proposed budget. Under state law, a governor has extraordinary leverage over the legislature to include his policy objectives if he includes them in the spending plan.

The Long Island executives argue that the measure wouldn’t be a new tax or an increase in taxes because the sales tax on all purchases is already owed to the state and counties. They cited a Government Accounting Office study that estimated New York State is missing out on $500 million to $900 million in sales tax revenue.

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