Roanoke businessman Larry Davidson.
Roanoke businessman Larry Davidson.

As the U.S. House of Representatives continues to debate the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), a number of local retailers are making the case for the e-fairness legislation. On behalf of the 21st Century Retail Project, long-time Roanoke businessman Larry Davidson recently shared his perspective on the importance of the Marketplace Fairness Act.

“I’m a third generation clothier – my grandfather started this business right here on Jefferson Street in 1910. As a local retailer I certainly believe in a free market system and what I don’t want is for the government to interfere in the competition. I can certainly compete on service,  I can compete on selection but it is unfair for a online seller to have a price advantage that is the difference in the sales tax. I think the Marketplace Fairness act will provide a more level playing field so I can continue to operate in this local community.

In addition, Chamber president Joyce Waugh recently joined local retailer and Salem City Council member Jane Johnson and Roanoke County Supervisor Mike Altizer at a news conference announcing support for the MFA. The news conference coincided with the release of a study by noted economist Arthur Laffer designed to highlight the positive economic impacts that would result from closing the online sales tax loophole. By arguing that the government should not be picking winners and losers in the marketplace, the Laffer study can also be seen as an attempt to mollify conservative opposition to the MFA.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate approved the MFA on a 69-27 vote. Currently, the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte, is exploring changes to the Senate legislation. Goodlatte has publicly expressed concerns that the Senate version lacks uniformity on definitions and tax rates and does adequately address the due process rights for online retailers.

The Roanoke Chamber of Commerce supports this legislation that they believe will create a level playing field for traditional and online retailers.


  1. If you’re saying you will need to get out your abacus and tax rate chart every time you make a sale, it might be worth your time to demo some of the tax software that’s on the market and will be given to you if MFA passes. I’m not saying every piece of software is already perfect, but that’s likely why states have to certify the software first. This gives software developers a great free market incentive to be the chosen software for states, and that competition will drive these companies to improve to the point that they will actually simplify your interstate sales process and lower your fixed costs. And there’s more good news: there’s lots of market-proven software already on the market.

    My computer had to do several million calculations to bring me to this article and post my comments, but I didn’t feel the need to count those either.

  2. ” and you’ll see that each state has to have one office, one form, etc. that deals with these taxes ”

    And those 9600 jurisdictions are still at play. each has it’s own tax rate. Here in S.C., there are over 150.

    One State, One form? Yep, all 600. The bill defines a ‘State’ as The Several States, DC, all US territories, and all (565) Sovereign Indian Nations.

    You were telling me about the simplicity????

  3. Check out the first page of the bill (, section 2 part 2A) and you’ll see that each state has to have one office, one form, etc. that deals with these taxes. The 9600 jurisdictions argument seems like sleight of hand. The taxes get filed, at most, as often as they do for brick-and-mortar stores, and any state that wants to collect these taxes has to provide internet retailers with tax software that calculates and sends in the taxes almost automatically.

    Personally I say repeal the sales tax for everybody, but it seems like a lot of website owners are responding to rumor and fear put out there by the bill’s opponents. Check out the link above and see if it changes your thinking at all.

  4. ” It’s about making government enforce the same laws for everybody and not leaving the burden on consumers to figure out and send in the sales taxes.”

    Except that a B&M has one store, one tax rate, and one tax form as well as a voting right for the State that imposes the tax. Online would be dealing with 9600 tax jurisdictions, thousands of tax rates, and over 46 monthly tax returns, and no say so on the taxes charged, nor be compensated for being a nationwide tax collector. Fair? I don’t think so.

    B&Ms (and lawmakers) are only looking at their own back yard, not the complications made nationwide by passing this law.

  5. Walmart has been a big part of U.S. retail for years and lots of small businesses continue to be successful. They have a decades-old presence in the market and we still have thriving retail at stores of all sizes. The internet sales tax collection issue is different. It’s about making government enforce the same laws for everybody and not leaving the burden on consumers to figure out and send in the sales taxes. Should website retailers get to offer special government discounts just because they sell online? Sounds like government overreach and this MFA bill would fix that.

  6. Thinking that forcing small business online to collect Sales Tax will save the Strip Mall is a myth at best. That $400 item sold in a B&M can easily be found for $350 online.

    B&Ms would rather blame the internet rather than a poor sales force, lack of selection, or the Big Box store next door that stole 30% of your business.

  7. I feel so sad for all these old retailers that have had the wool pulled over their heads. By e-com’s and mainstreet’s biggest compeditor is not e-commerce but by that giant monster called Walmart who is the main force behind this so called “fairness” bill. This bill is not going to save your businesses its only going to make all of the Big Box Retail giants even bigger. So they have not smashed you YET just wait they all want to kill e-commerce first they can’t compete it’s cutting into their profits. Their using MFA as ammo in their fight, For them its a great plan let just let the goverment to bury them in compliance cost and drive them out of business. When this happens don’t be shocked when they turn their eyes back to Mainstreet USA.

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