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Pa. cracks down on collecting sales tax from online retailers

HARRISBURG, Pa. — An unintended tax break some online shoppers might have taken advantage of has come to an end in Pennsylvania. Online shoppers who often...

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- An unintended tax break some online shoppers might have taken advantage of has come to an end in Pennsylvania.

Online shoppers who often surf the web for deals to save money or for convenience to save time, may have to pay more than they’re used to paying for products.

A new state law is turning more Pennsylvania internet customers into taxpayers.

Avoiding having to pay sales tax when shopping online is no longer as easy as it used to be for shoppers.

Online shopper Lauren Beaston said "well I didn’t really know about it, until you just told me about it a couple minutes ago. I don’t know that I would have even have noticed if I made a purchase online, if sales tax was taken or not."

As of April 1st, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue began making sure online retailers with sales of ten thousand dollars or more collect the state’s six percent sales tax.

Pennsylvania Department of Revenue communications director Jeffery Johnson said "the requirements are, for the company to either collect and remit the sales tax. Or, they can send notices to their purchasers letting them know that they need to remit the sales tax to the department."

If retailers don’t collect the tax, taxpayers would be on the honor system to pay up.

"I would probably pay it, because living in Pennsylvania, we’re already used to having to pay sales tax. So, I feel like I wouldn’t really think twice and would probably just do what they asked, and pay the taxes like I’m supposed to," Beaston said.

Making sure online shoppers pay their fair share of sales tax or 'use tax' could pay off for Pennsylvania.

"The department has done some analysis, and we believe that this change in the law will result in about $50 million of added sales tax in the next fiscal year," Johnson said.

Harrisburg resident Troy Dunston said "our legislators are trying to find revenue where they can. I think because more brick and mortar stores are going by the wayside, and online shopping is becoming more of a preferred method of retail, I think that’s a great way to raise money."

Pennsylvania might not be the only one to reap the rewards.

Online shopper Carmen Toro said "if I had to pay tax, and I was buying online, then there might not be as much as benefit for shopping online, other than of course I don’t have to leave my home, but then that could generate more business in the local stores."

"Pennsylvania is trying to create a level paying field where your brick and mortar stores are on equal footing with online retailers," Johnson said.

A few online shoppers don’t seem to mind the marketplace sales act going into effect.

"One of those things, living in Pennsylvania, we just kind of pay the six percent," Beaston said.

"I think that would be able to fund some important programs like education, so I think it’s a good thing," Dunston said.

Officials with the Department of Revenue said they’re also looking outside the commonwealth for tips to see how other states enacted similar laws.