Online Sales Hurting Several Oklahoma Cities

Wednesday, November 8th 2017, 6:50 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

It's Christmas shopping season and a lot of us will be buying a lot of gifts online. But many Oklahoma cities say that is drastically effecting their bottom line.  In Stillwater, the city manager says they've had to cut $13 million from their budget in the past year mostly due to a loss of internet sales tax.

The Stillwater Summit Company has been in business in Stillwater for 15 years but the last few have been a steeper climb.

“We don’t have a competitor locally but we have the biggest competitor online and shopping on their phone,” said owner Brady Moore.

Many of those competitors don't charge sales tax - in Stillwater that’s 8.813%.

“We offer a student discount, a 10% discount just to offset the extra sales tax we have to collect,” said Moore.

Fortunately they've been able to stay afloat. But the Stillwater city manager says many aren't so lucky. They've lost 10 to 12 businesses in the last year.

“A lot of them would look you in the eye and tell you it’s because they couldn’t compete with the internet,” says Norman McNickle, the Stillwater City Manager.

Amazon volunteered earlier this year to start collecting sales taxes but McNickle says it's hasn't made much of a difference because Amazon's vendors don't have to collect sales tax.

“That figure is not nearly as high as people though it would be,” said McNickle.

He adds there’s thousands of other online retailers that also don’t collect sales tax. At the moment, only 170 of the top 500 online retailers collect sales tax. So he's asking the legislature to pass a law similar law to the one other states have enacted mandating online retailers collect sales tax. 

“We’re not going to change the fact that people are going to buy from the internet, but certainly the way government is funded in Oklahoma, something’s got to give.”