A state task force is quietly taking a hard look at the pros and cons of forcing Internet retailers to comply with a Mississippi law that mandates they collect sales taxes on items they sell online to buyers in the state.
A key question is whether taxing cyber sales is a true pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or a big hassle not worth the expense, as a State of Maryland study concluded in 2011.
How much Mississippi is losing in tax revenues is a big question without a consensus answer. Some studies put the range at between $40 million and $200 million, while a survey cited in an April Associated Press story tagged the cyber revenue loss at $616 million.
Bob Neal, a senior state economist with the Institutes of Higher Learning, has not seen any figure with which he is comfortable. He said he thinks the $40 million may be too low and the $200 million too high. “I am not any more confident in either number, to tell you the truth,” Neal noted.
He has brought the task force together but is unsure its work will produce any sort of revenue projection. “The task force is exploring what is the situation and, frankly, is it an addressable issue,” he said.
He said Tuesday the task force made up of economists, state officials and private sector representatives is in its infancy but plans to complete its work before the next legislative session.