Debate in Congress over a sales tax requirement for online purchases

CLEVELAND - It was "back to work" Monday for just about everyone after the holiday weekend, but that didn't slow down holiday shopping.

Cyber Monday kicked off, though the online sales started days ago and some will last all week. Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion online, up 20 percent from last year. This online surge is a concern to some retail operations who think there is an unfair playing field for online retailers.

"I've seen 40 percent off free shipping so I'm definitely going to take advantage of that," online shopper Yasmine Farraj said.

From clothing to electronics, you can save hundreds of dollars shopping on Cyber Monday. There's a built in savings for online shoppers because most e-retailers don't charge sales tax.

There's a push in Congress to change that, and create a level playing field for all businesses. We first told you about this push in July, and the impact it may have on some businesses.

"Our web business is growing and it's a steady growth," said Jeff Campbell, co-owner of Campbell's Sweets Factory .

Campbell's is investing in a new website, redesigning it and adding a section for special deals. Right now, the company can only offer those on Facebook.

Campbell said the online and retail stores compliment each other.

"Probably 40 percent of our online business is still northeast Ohio," Campbell explained.

The other orders come from all over the United States. Like most online retailers, Campbell's doesn't charge sales tax. They don't even charge tax in their store because Ohio doesn't require it on food.

That's not the case though where food is taxed. That leaves an uncertain future for Campbell's if the sales tax push in Congress passes.

"I do think it needs to be leveled, but they need a simple system to charge it," Campbell said.

Many small businesses are worried about the accounting and software costs to collect tax and remit it.

"If I have to write out 50 different tax checks and send it to 50 different states, I probably will get out of the internet business," Campbell said.

Online business that is such a threat to retail stores this holiday, Best Buy is price-matching some online prices. It's another promotion retailers are running to stay relevant in this digital world.

"I'll always shop online," Farraj said.

Staying safe online

If you're shopping online, use your credit card and not a debit card. It gives you extra protection if you don't get what you paid for, and sometimes an extra year on a warranty.

Also look for the "s" next to the http web address. That ensures the website is secure. Make sure you browse privately so your shopping won't be tracked.

Internet Explorer private browsing instructions
Safari private browsing

Firefox private browsing
Google Chrome private browsing

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