If You Want to Help Promote Social Isolation, Suspend the Internet Sales Tax

In this Dec. 1, 2008 file photo, an Amazon.com employee grabs boxes to be loaded onto a truck at the company’s Fernley, Nev. warehouse. States are increasingly looking to collect taxes from online retail sales as a way to fill gaps in budgets, with New York going as far as to pass a bill that requires companies like Amazon.com Inc. to collect taxes on shipments to New York residents, even if the companies’ operations are located elsewhere. (AP Photo/Scott Sady, File)


With more and more cases of COVID-19 getting diagnosed and the threat of big numbers of both infected and dying as a result of the Wuhan virus, local, state, and federal governments are urging citizens to stay at home and leave the house as little as possible. Stores nationwide have been virtually ransacked as people prepare for anywhere from two weeks to two months at home.

However, it’s nearly impossible to stay well-stocked if you are a family of four or more, and chances are that before the suggested self-containment period is up, families would need to take another trip to those same stores.

With the Wuhan virus so contagious, though, it could end up being a big risk, especially for the elderly and people with sick or immune-compromised family members at home.

Online retailers like Amazon and others do have some of the necessities – even food – that you can purchase and have sent to you, but most states (especially following last year’s Wayfair decision at the Supreme Court) have some sort of Internet sales tax in place that can make it more expensive to get those goods to your home. Because you have to pay those taxes as well as shipping, it can be more difficult to get certain necessities if your income is hurting because of the shutdowns or simply because of tougher economic times.

States do have the power to make this easier, however, should they decide that helping contain COVID-19 and making life more affordable for people in need is more important than taking a revenue hit. All they need to do is declare an emergency sales tax holiday for online purchases.


In doing so, these states (including my home state of Louisiana) can make sure people have the best chance to get what they need without going out and risking infection from the virus. Many online retailers can get items to customers in just a couple of days, and if you know you’re going to need some supplies, planning ahead and ordering means keeping your family in good shape through this tough time.

Politicians who are serious about people staying at home need to make this decision quickly, though, because the numbers and projections are getting worse seemingly every day.


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