Columbia proposes introducing a use tax for online purchases



Next year, people in Colombia may pay more taxes when buying items online.

The city says if voters pass a use tax, it could bring the city $5.6 million each year. Currently, the city charges a 2 percent local sales tax on items in the store.

Stefan Sheffield, a store manager at Slackers, says he doesn’t mind adding a 2 percent tax to his items online, especially if the money helps the community.

“I’m not really sure how to feel about this, but I’m usually kind of a pro-tax person personally,” Sheffield said.

And Sheffield says if voters approve the two percent tax, he’s not worried it will hurt his online sales.

“I’d like to say 80-20 in terms of selling in store versus selling online. It probably won’t make much of a difference,” Sheffield said.

Nationwide, online sales rose 30 percent during the pandemic and now account for 13 percent of total retail sales. The city has lost $30 million in tax revenue over the past 5 years due to the shift to online shopping.

Matthew Lue, director of finance for the City of Columbia, says adding a 2 percent tax to online sales is no different than shopping in stores.

“It’s going to impact consumers the same way buying something in a store would be the same 2 percent sales tax that we collect when we shop person-to-person,” Lue said.

If the city gets the extra money, it could help fund public safety, public health, roads, sidewalks and more.

“The quicker we can fix these the better, and hopefully higher taxes will help with that,” Sheffield said.

Voters will decide on April 5 whether or not to approve the 2 percent local consumption tax.


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