July 8, 2019
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'It's a bit scary': Washington border retailers facing new reality after loss of automatic out-of-state sales tax exemption



Washington retailers know one thing about their many Oregon customers: they hate to pay sales tax.

“They walk in the door. They want some filters. You ring it up, you tell ‘em how much, and they say, ‘Oh, I’m from Oregon, no tax,’” Skip Ogden, owner of Dan’s Tractors outside Battle Ground, told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Yeah, they’ll make you re-ring $2, cause they don’t want to pay the extra 15 cents.”

As of July 1, Oregon customers have lost the ability to simply have their purchases rung up without tax. The Washington Legislature passed a law, effective last week, that removed the automatic out-of-state exemption for sales tax. That longtime law was designed to keep Washington retailers competitive in relation to other merchants across the state line without sales tax.

Instead, buyers must save their receipts and submit a reimbursement form each year. The state estimates that only 21% of Oregon shoppers will bother to ask for their money back.

Washington lawmakers think the change will increase tax collections by $54 million over the next two years -- but retailers say they are worried about losing customers who will no longer cross the state line to shop where they'll now be charged sales tax.

Don Thompson, owners of the America the Beautiful Dreamer furniture store in Vancouver, said 40 percent of his business this year has been coming from Oregon customers.

At least one Oregon shopper told OPB that she's not going to bother saving receipts.

“That’s a lot of work to expect a mom to do, frankly,” said Michele King, of St. Helens, Oregon, who said it's a little more convenient to shop in Washington. “It’s too much.”

She has been in the habit of crossing into Longview to shop at Walmart for groceries and Home Depot for renovation supplies -- but with her costs increasing without the sales tax exemption, shopping in Washington is something she won't bother to do anymore, either.



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Unintended Consequences


State's proposed overtime rule change goes too far, too fast

By AWB President Kris Johnson

If it's approved, any employer with salaried workers making less than that amount will be faced with the difficult decision to either raise their employees' salary to nearly $80,000 or convert the worker to hourly status. For employers who can't afford to give out big raises, they may have little or no choice but to switch employees to hourly status.

In theory, this could lead to increased pay for some workers, but that's only if their employer can afford to pay overtime. Small businesses, nonprofits and other employers that can't absorb the cost increase will likely cut services.

Even for workers who don't take a step backward financially, the change could feel like a demotion. Increasingly, employees value flexibility in work hours, particularly younger workers. Making the transition from a salaried job -- with the flexibility to duck out for a couple hours in the middle of the day to take care of family obligation -- to an hourly worker who is required to be in the office a full eight hours, without the option of working from home, will be jarring.

No one is disputing that Washington's overtime rule needs updating. But the state's proposal simply goes too far, too fast and risks harming the employees it's intended to help.

Read the full column in The Wenatchee Valley Business World