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Ga. retailers can't wait for Internet sales tax | News

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Ga. retailers can't wait for Internet sales tax
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ATLANTA -- For years, online retailers have been able to circumvent collecting sales taxes for Georgia purchases if the companies weren't "technically" located here.

But it now appears that annual $20 million loophole is about to close -- and many businesses say it's about time.

Atlanta Cycling learned a long time ago to shift its gears and sprint hard to Internet sales as a way to stay competitive.

"The online stuff expands our customer base immensely," said Matthew Miller, director of Internet sales. "There are hundreds of millions of people online, whereas our customer base is really just metro Atlanta ... five or six million, however big it is."

And however big it is, it is certainly big enough to support a booming business of high-end bikes that cater to beginners and pros alike.

"So you can purchase our bikes online," Miller said. "You still have to pick them up in the store."

But the very fact that there is a store puts Atlanta Cycling at a disadvantage.

For example, take one of the many bikes the store sells online: an Italian Wilier. Because Atlanta Cycling is an actual bricks and mortar store located in Georgia, it has to collect about $200 in sales tax on the bike.

Meanwhile, some other online sellers that aren't collecting the sales tax can offer the same bike for less. Georgia retailers say that's unfair.

But Governor Deal is expected to sign a recently-passed bill that would make everyone pay up, regardless of where they operate.

"We essentially have an eight percent mark-up that we have to deal with versus the guys at Amazon or some of the big online retail guys," Miller said. "So for us, it kind of levels the playing field."

Virginia Galloway from the Georgia chapter of Americans For Prosperity, a tax watchdog group, believes that the federal government, not the state, should be the one to come up with a solution, but admits that she can see the argument from both sides of the debate.

But for many, customer service in a real store makes paying taxes online worth the extra money versus an invisible discount Internet retailer.

"I would rather even pay a little bit more to get the right product," said cyclist Chris McConohay. "Because in the long run, it's going to cost me more money if I don't."

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