Been shopping online tax-free? You may be about to get a bill

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - If you've enjoyed buying online for years without having to pay sales taxes, those days are coming to an end. New laws are kicking in that will be a game -changer, and many small businesses are happy.

For years, small business owners have complained about what they call an unfair advantage given to large online retailers who many believe hurt local business. Amazon now rakes in more than $200 billion a year, thanks in part to purchases that are often made without customers having to pay sales taxes.

"No offense to Jeff Bezos at Amazon, he gets richer and richer, but he rakes the small business community over the coals," said local business owner Rhonda Findley.

Now, under new laws passed in Congress and in Baton Rouge, states are about to get something they have been wanting for a long time.

"It requires remote retailers to notify shoppers of purchases subject to the state use tax," said Byron Henderson with the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

Notices are now going out to online customers telling them what their un-taxed purchases were, and the state is about to start holding customers' feet to the fire.

"Now with the backing of the letter being sent out by the company, the state now has leverage," said CPA Kemberly Washington.

And if you don't pay the taxes on your state tax return, there could be penalties.

"Just like with any tax that goes unpaid or unreported, it's subject to late filing and payment penalties," said Henderson.

Getting to this point was no small feat. States and local small businesses fought for the newly passed requirements for years, hoping to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

"It's been on our radar since we started a small business, and we realized online sales were very competitive to the local market," said Findley.

She says the new tax disclosure laws will help level the playing field, and help the community.

"If you want to get your kids a business opportunity, Amazon won't do it, it's the small businesses that will," said Findley.

The new online tax notifications were made possible by an act passed by the Legislature in 2016. It applies to all out-of-state online retailers whose sales exceed $50,000.

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