August Recess Is Coming – Are You Ready?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Throughout the month of August, your congressional delegation typically puts business on hold in Washington, D.C., and heads home. The “August Recess” is designed to give members of Congress and their staff some time to reorient, so it’s one of the very best times for constituents to meet with them. Your advocacy has the most impact during this period because it allows your congressional representation to come face-to-face with the fiscal effects that federal preemption legislation has on localities within their districts. In the next several weeks, please schedule a meeting with your member of Congress to discuss the key 2015 issues explained below.

What Are Our Issues?
The Senate Marketplace Fairness Act  and House Remote Transactions Parity Act.
Both of these bills would compel retailers to collect taxes on remote sales, based on the consumer’s location. Passing this legislation would finally bring federal law into the digital age by enabling state and local governments to collect sales taxes on online purchases that are already owed to them but not being paid. These bills would also level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers who currently face a competitive disadvantage of 5-10%, compared to remote sellers, because Congress has failed to act to update national tax laws with respect to digital sales.

Key Messages:

  • Senator, SUPPORT AND COSPONSOR S698, the Marketplace Fairness Act
  • Representative, SUPPORT AND COSPONSOR HR 2775, the Remote Transactions Parity Act (RTPA)

The Internet Tax Freedom Act.
When the ITFA was first enacted in 1998, the Internet access and commerce industries were in their infancy and only beginning to be significantly available to households. The intent of the moratorium was to give the then-nascent Internet industry time to grow and get established. Even at that time, Congress recognized that the ban should not be permanent. If enacted, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act would cost state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. As the telecommunications and cable service industries increasingly transition their services to broadband, a permanent ITFA would prohibit governments from imposing any taxes or fees on wireless telecommunications providers or service, as well as cable franchise and right-of-way fees. State and local governments should not be preempted from their ability to govern their own tax structures.

Key Messages:

  • Senator, OPPOSE S 431, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act
  • Representative, we are disappointed that a “permanent” ITFA was passed through the House on June 9, 2015, especially as the House continues to delay any consideration of the Remote Transactions Parity Act. We strongly urge House consideration of this measure as soon as possible.

What Can I Do?
Step 1:
Contact the scheduling staff for your federal elected and set up an appointment. This link will direct you to local contact information for your Senators and Representatives.
Step 2:
Draft an op-ed that summarizes your jurisdiction’s concerns with the bills discussed above and send it to your local newspaper, a powerful way of communicating with your representative. An op-ed articulating your position on current legislation will be widely distributed for your entire district to read. GFOA’s suite of advocacy materials includes an easy-to-use op-ed template. (Click here for Marketplace Fairness and here for Internet Tax Freedom.) 
Step 3:
Whether you schedule an appointment with your senator or representative, or his or her staff, or you plan to see him or her at a local event, glance at our talking points for Marketplace Fairness and for Internet Tax Freedom. Feel free to add in as many district-specific descriptive details as possible.

Please contact Emily Brock, senior policy advisor at GFOA’s Federal Liaison Center, if you need any additional information, when your op-ed is published, if you do have a discussion with your representative or senator. GFOA’s Federal Liaison Center loosk forward to working with you during the August Recess.