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Letter to the Editor: Use tax would level playing field for businesses

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Dear editor,

I wanted to take this opportunity to voice my support for both the Nixa and Ozark use tax proposals on the April 3 ballot. Passage of the use tax will level the playing field for local businesses as they struggle to compete against online and out-of-state vendors.
 
I am not going to try to explain the use tax in depth – it is complex enough for the lawyers and accountants – but basically online giants such as Amazon do not collect any local sales tax to pay for services like police, streets and sidewalks. In Nixa, those vital services are paid for by the 1.5 percent city sales tax which is collected by our local area businesses.

Those local businesses then must try and compete against these giant corporations while combatting a loophole that allows Amazon and other large online stores to avoid collecting any local sales tax. Passage of the use tax would close this unfair loophole, which damages our local economy and hurts our local businesses.
 
As we have recently seen with the bankruptcy of large retailers like Toys R Us, the future of brick-and-mortar retailers will continue to be challenging at best. It is estimated that as much as 12 percent of all retail sales are now made online, and that trend is only increasing. 

What does that mean for Nixa? Instead of new retail businesses locating here, those local business that are here are having to work harder to compete. Instead of our sales tax revenue keeping pace with our continued growth, it has been flat over the last five years.
 
Think about how that would affect your personal budget. If you never get that raise as prices continue to increase – plus you have a few thousand more folks in your family to feed – what do you do? Well, you cut back on something you had previously thought you needed – that cable bill, a newer car or repairs on your home. For the city, that means doing away with community programs, having fewer police, skipping road repairs and not constructing that new sidewalk or park for your neighborhood.
 
When you buy something online, the truck that delivers it still uses your city streets and you still expect your local law enforcement to make sure that package is still there when you come home. Those residents who don’t or can’t buy items online are often the most vulnerable people in our community. Those, like our seniors, who need the services the most and can least afford them, end up taking an unfair share of the burden.
 
So, I hope you will take a moment to think about this and how it will affect our community in the long term. Let’s be fair to local businesses and fair to our neighbors.

—Brian Steele, mayor of Nixa

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