Byrnes Mill residents will be asked again this April if they want to give the city the ability to collect sales taxes from internet sales.
Mayor Robert Kiczenski said if the measure is approved by a simple majority, the city would be able to collect a 2.5-percent tax on internet purchases.
City Administrator Debbie LaVenture said if the measure passes, the city could collect about $35,000 a year from the additional tax.
“It’s not a lot, but it would help,” she said. “It could help hire another police officer.”
Kiczenski said it would not be a “huge windfall” of money, but the money could be used for public safety and mental health.
“We feel the proper training and proper people available to assist everyone would be beneficial,” he said.
Missouri residents already are obligated to pay state sales taxes – called “use taxes” – on internet sales, but not all vendors collect it. Missouri residents who buy more than $2,000 in untaxed goods and services are supposed to report that on their state income tax returns.
A state law that goes into effect in January 2023 further requires businesses not based in Missouri to pay Missouri’s sales taxes if they had more than $100,000 in business in the previous calendar year.
The internet sales taxes are commonly called “Wayfair” taxes, referring to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case, South Dakota vs. Wayfair Inc., that overturned a rule preventing states from taxing the sales of vendors who don’t have a physical presence in that state.
However, the new law applies only to state sales tax. Counties, cities and other entities that collect sales taxes must ask their voters to approve a “use tax” on internet purchases and other out-of-state sales that is equal to their sales tax rates.
Kiczenski said the issue is one of fairness.
“If you’re buying something from Amazon versus Walgreens, it balances the playing field for both the entities involved, because right now Walgreens is having to pay the local taxes and internet purchases are not,” he said.
Proponents of use taxes say that entities that rely on sales taxes are losing money because the public is shifting to online shopping, putting brick-and-mortar stores at a disadvantage.
Kiczenski said the ballot language is “unfortunate” because neither “internet” nor “online” is mentioned.
“We would love to change that, to make it clear what our residents are voting for,” he said. “That sort of dovetails into why we’re going to have some type of educational campaign for this to kind of explain to everyone what this is for.”
LaVenture said the city did not write the language that will appear on the ballot.
“We are mandated by the state so we cannot stray from the ballot language they permit us to use,” she said.
The Board of Alderpersons voted 5-0 on Nov. 17 to place the issue on the ballot. Ward 3 Alderperson Jason Matthews was absent.
Jefferson County officials have said that they expect most, if not all, of the county’s municipalities to join Byrnes Mill and ask voters for use taxes on the April 5 ballot.
County Executive Dennis Gannon had discussed plans to ask the County Council to place its own request on the April ballot, but later said a lack of support among council members led him to reconsider that idea.
Byrnes Mill had put the same issue before voters in August 2018, and it failed, with 37 percent voting yes and 63 percent no.
Jefferson County and eight other cities also asked voters the same question in that election, and only voters in Kimmswick approved it.