Thursday, February 07, 2013

Shooing the Shoe Tax

Illinois State Representative Will Davis is proposing a 25-cent tax on running shoes to fund "programs that help high-school dropouts from low-income homes get jobs in the construction trades or get back on track to attend college."

I don't know anything about these programs, and I am uncertain whether a running shoe tax is the appropriate vehicle for funding them. But I do know that the business community (at least as represented in the Tribune article) is full of knee-jerk reactionary idiots:
"[Consumers are] already crossing the borders for many things," said Kim Clarke Maisch, Illinois' director of the National Federation of Independent Business. "They're crossing the borders for gambling, for example. We don't need any other reasons for them to travel elsewhere."
But [Fleet Feet Chicago owner Dave] Zimmer said an increase in shoe costs could prompt customers to buy them online at a time when bricks-and-mortar stores are losing business to the Internet.
Look, I understand nobody likes to pay taxes, especially new taxes. But to argue that a 25-cent tax on a $50+ item* is going to change shopping habits is ridiculous. With gas prices near $4 a gallon, how many Illinois residents are going to "travel elsewhere" to avoid a 25 cent tax? Alternatively, will people who shop at local running stores such as Fleet Feet flee to the Internet to save 25 cents? Anyone who really cares about price started buying running shoes online years ago because local shops generally charge higher prices and sales tax. If someone isn't shopping online to dodge Chicago's 9-10% sales tax** on their shoes, then he/she isn't going to start just to save a quarter.*** Only a hardcore Grover Norquist supporter would go to such lengths to duck a 25-cent tax on a pair of shoes.

Like I said, I don't know whether running shoes are the right way to fund these programs.**** Regardless, I am tired of business interests trotting out the same old anti-tax bogeymen no matter how ridiculously irrelevant.

* If you're paying less than $50 for running shoes, you probably aren't buying them at an independent business like a specialty running store (which is what Maisch and Zimmer represent).

** Illinois residents are supposed to declare online purchases and pay sales taxes on them, but I'm probably the only sucker who does.

*** I am ignoring shipping costs since free shipping offers are pretty common at online stores anyway.

****  Zimmer's only direct quote in the article questions this correlation rather than backing the assertion attributed to him about buying online.

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