As the owner of Zeagler’s Music in Louisiana for 47 years, I would like to encourage U.S. Rep. Garret Graves to stand up for local businesses by cosponsoring the Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2015. This bill would restore free-market principles to the marketplace by leveling the playing field for all small businesses in our communities. Congress has considered e-fairness legislation for more than a decade, and it’s about time for the sales tax loophole for online sellers to come to an end.

Today, local retailers are suffering from a severe disadvantage that is threatening their ability to compete in today’s marketplace. Our current sales tax laws are strictly enforced on brick-and-mortar small businesses like mine while online-only sellers — often selling the same products to the same consumers — are not required to collect sales tax at point of sale. Although the sales tax burden falls on the consumer to remit his or her sales tax directly to the state if the retailer doesn’t collect it, this rarely happens, giving the impression that online shopping is tax-free when it’s really not.

This unfair advantage that the government gives to online-only sellers hurts local businesses. I have unfortunately directly experienced this. Zeagler’s used to operate five stores in Louisiana. We have reduced that number to one directly because of this issue. In order for the government to support a truly free marketplace, tax treatment must be the same for everyone.

The outdated sales tax system that we have now ultimately doesn’t just threaten my businesses, but it can also impact our entire community. For decades, local businesses throughout Louisiana have provided jobs, boosted the local economy and supported community organizations. We create local jobs, and we employ vendors that are based in our town. We are engaged in charitable organizations and civic activities: Zeagler’s Music alone assists three music organizations around Baton Rouge. The sales tax revenue collected by local retailers helps maintain roads, fund emergency services, pay for our teachers and keep our cities and towns vibrant. But they can’t do that as long as we continue giving out-of-state sellers an unfair advantage over local stores.

Right now, Congress has the ideal opportunity to end this significant price disadvantage by passing the RTPA once and for all. I encourage Rep. Graves and the entire Louisiana delegation to support this important bill.

Fred Zeagler

owner, Zeagler’s Music

Baton Rouge