Money quick tips: Will online shopping cost more?

(USA TODAY) -- Online holiday spending hit record levels in 2012, but is cyber shoppingabout to get more expensive?

Online shopping represents roughly 10% of overall retail sales. Thefast-growing sector's role in the retail universe is changing and with that, sois, potentially, its sales tax status.

Several states already require online retailers to collect sales taxes onpurchases and there are several federal Internet sales tax proposals currentlybeing considered.

What does this mean for consumers? Who wins and who loses with the enactmentof a potentially new nationwide sales tax?

Right now if you order online and the item is being shipped to a locationwhere the e-tailer has a physical presence - in the form of a store or adistribution center - taxes will be collected.

Many of the major e-tailers - walmart, kohls and target - are also majorretailers with locations nationwide. It's a relative wash for them and, byextension, consumers, because they have already factored sales tax into theircost pricing and logistics.

While you might think Amazon would be against the plan to tax onlinepurchases, they've actually adjusted their stance.

Amazon, based in the state of Washington, has traditionally only paid salestax on a small fraction of orders. But as it expands its distribution network,it will have a presencefar beyond its headquarters.

According to some analysts, Amazon may be able to turn tax collection into astrategic advantage. Roughly 40% of Amazon's sales are based on transactionswith third parties. Amazon has the infrastructure in place to handle thecheckout, shopping and tax collection process, for a fee, for these thirdparties.

While free shipping - essentially absorbing the costs - has been the mostpopular online promotion, swallowing sales tax is probably less likely tohappen. It's probably safe to expect online orders to cost more, to less, goingforward.

Regina Lewis is a national television contributor and host of USA Today'sbiweekly "Money Quick Tips" videos. Follow her on Twitter: @ReginaLewis.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
More Stories