An package is prepared for shipment by a United Parcel Service (UPS) driver in Palo Alto, Calif.

In the war of businessmen against the people, the businessmen seem to have won the battle for collecting sales tax on products purchased from out-of-state sellers. A federal law sponsored by state business interests will require the appropriate state sales tax to be collected on Internet purchases. The state governments see this as a windfall because the voluntary sales tax doesn't seem to be working. Local businesses see the enforcement of the tax as a "leveling of the playing ground," even though many of the local retailers are international corporations.

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However, the consumer may have the last word and foil the attack on their wallets. The customer still has the ability to make his own choice and can do so according to his own evaluation of the costs and benefits. The strategy is as simple as printing a picture of the item(s) and asking the local merchant if he will meet or approach the Internet price advantage. The consumer can then make his decision based on the starting price and the factors of time, convenience, shipping costs, and the sales tax. Note that the sales tax on the local purchase will be greater than on the Internet.

Robert Neale

Salt Lake City