Online shopping could be getting more expensive in some parts of Alaska. A group of 15 Alaska communities have signed on to an online sales tax initiative, a topic of discussion at the Alaska Municipal League's annual conference last week. 

The proposal applies local sales tax to online purchases in a bid to both level the playing field for Alaska businesses and capture new revenue. 

"For the same product that a physical business is selling in Alaska, the price of that, they're collecting sales tax within their jurisdiction. A remote seller is not," explained Nils Andreassen, Executive Director of AML.  

The initiative's fifteen signatories are communities that already have an established sales tax:

  • Adak
  • Haines Borough
  • Homer
  • Juneau
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough
  • Ketchikan Gateway Borough
  • Kodiak
  • Palmer
  • Seldovia
  • Seward
  • Soldotna
  • Toksook Bay
  • Wasilla
  • Wrangell

Supreme Court ruling last year paved the way for local taxation of online purchases. According to USA Today, 31 states now have laws requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. 

"The only way to do this is by working together, agreeing to the same definitions and the same rules of the road," Andreassen said. "And being able to present a united front for online commerce."

In an op-ed earlier this month, Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman announced his resignation, citing a statewide conversation about taxes. 

"The discussion is turning more and more toward taxes," Tangeman wrote. 

While Tangeman didn't get into specifics, Andreassen says there is an idea that seems to be gaining traction. 

"I've certainly heard sales tax coming from a lot, a variety of sources," Andreassen said. 

If lawmakers were to decide on a statewide sales tax, Andreassen says it could be applied online in the same manner as municipal taxes. Retailers would collect both local and state sales tax on purchases.

Currently, there is a broad-based tax proposal at play in the Legislature. Fairbanks Sen. Click Bishop introduced Senate Bill 50 to revive Alaska's education head tax by collecting $30 a year from each person employed in the state. The money would, in turn, be used for school construction and maintenance. 

Lawmakers will have an opportunity to pre-file legislation starting in January. 

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