POLITICS

Strip-mall lobby’s priorities: Internet sales tax & detailed Census data

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

The lobby for the shopping-center industry yesterday made it clear the industry’s number one federal priority is a law to ensure online shoppers pay the sales tax.

It’s obvious why shopping centers would want to force their online competitors to collect sales taxes. I was surprised, though, that this was their No. 1 issue.

This week in Richmond, the International Council on Shopping Centers held a convention, and the group’s federal affairs presentation was almost entirely on the lobbying effort behind the Marketplace Fairness Act and other federal legislation to ensure online shoppers pay sales tax.

I understand some of the fairness arguments behind this sort of legislation, and so I don’t find this necessarily an insidious lobbying effort. But I wanted to point this out because so much of the writing on corporate lobbying assumes that industry lobbying is mostly about killing regulation or lowering taxes. Just as often, it’s about raising taxes on your competitors or your potential customers.

An interesting footnote: One of the other top issues for the shopping-center lobby is promotion and protection of the Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey” — basically, the detailed information that comes from the long Census form.

Shopping-center developers find great value in this survey, and they are lobbying to keep it robust. This is a great argument for privatizing the survey — or at least getting someone other than the average taxpayer to foot the bill. If it’s so valuable to commercial developers, then why shouldn’t they pay for it?

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