Missouri voters to decide "use tax" for online shopping in several area cities

Residents of Belton, Blue Springs, Independence, Liberty and Odessa will decide whether or not they want to pay their city a sales tax when shopping online. (CBS)

Missouri voters will cast a ballot for a number of issues Tuesday, but residents of five metro cities face a unique decision surrounding their online shopping.

Residents of Belton, Blue Springs, Independence, Liberty and Odessa will decide whether or not they want to pay their city a sales tax when shopping online.

The tax is called a "use tax."

Currently, people who buy something online, pay taxes to wherever they buy their items from. The proposed tax would allow cities to collect tax when people buy items online from an out-of-state-vendor.

Cities like Belton say they're losing out on between $200,000 and $300,000 on online sales tax.

If passed, the funding would provide for capital improvements as well as basic city services.

Belton City Manager Alexa Barton says if the measure passes, it will be an equalizer.

“So, if they purchase something out of state and it’s delivered to their home, they pay a use tax for the state of Missouri and Cass County. But they don’t pay one for the city, and that’s why the city loses out. That’s where they call it an equalizer,” Barton said.

Currently, 140 Missouri cities have a local “Use Tax”.

Anthony Tocco, an accounting professor at Rockhurst University says the biggest obstacle he sees if it passes, is how it will be monitored.

“It’s really going to boil down to the people who essentially use the internet to report a use tax,” Tocco said. “So, it’s going to come down to their ethical behavior of whether or not they’re going to do it.”

While online retailer Amazon collects taxes in 45 states and two territories that have a sales tax, other online retailers are only required to take a sales tax if they have a physical location in the state.

A case has reached the United States Supreme Court looking to challenge that ruling later in April.

Missouri polls will be open until 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

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