Business leaders hope recent ruling prompts e-fairness solution

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Larry Davidson has been talking about the issue of "e-fairness" for several years, advocating a level playing field for brick and mortar businesses and their online competitors.

But the President of Davidsons says he isn't just thinking about his own financial interests as a local retailer of quality men's clothing.

"As a homeowner and a resident of a community I want my services maintained or increased," he told WDBJ7, "and this is an opportunity for that to happen."

The Marketplace Fairness Act never made it through Congress, but the Supreme Court ruling in South Dakota Vs. Wayfair has opened the door for states to collect sales tax from internet retailers whether or not they have a physical presence in the state.

Some of the largest online retailers, including Amazon, already collect state sales tax.

Officials estimate the state could bring in an additional $300 million a year, if all internet retailers of a certain size are required to collect sales tax from their Virginia customers.

The big companies that were involved in the Supreme Court case say they don't believe the ruling will hurt their business. But with more more than 12,000 different state and local taxing districts, Overstock.com said the requirement could present a compliance challenge for others.

"The U.S.Supreme Court has re-shaped the interstate commerce landscape in a move that could impact small business innovation on the internet, which has been a driving force behind our nation's economy for the last 15 years," the company said in a news release following the ruling in June.

Rebekah Gunn is the Vice President of Public Policy and Strategic Issues for the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"Wayfair was certainly a win for small business, but it's just the first step," Gunn said in an interview Tuesday.

The chamber says federal and state lawmakers need to provide more clarity in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

"I am hopeful that the General Assembly would address this issue," Gunn said, "particularly if they were to take on tax reform as an issue in the upcoming session, it seems like it would be a natural fit to include online sales tax reform in that package."