Greed is the motive behind government officials’ desire to tax Internet transactions. Fairness is the reason that causes many others — including me — to come to the same conclusion: We should treat online retail purchases the same way we treat those made from the corner store.
Internet sales aren’t subject to the sales tax because the legal world hasn’t caught up with the real one. In trying to figure out when a company might be subject to local tax rules, courts long ago decided the test would be whether the business had a “physical presence” in the state. That test created an exemption for mail-order companies and the like, but they were a trivial part of overall retail sales, so few cared. But then the Internet came along and, suddenly, a small exception became a giant loophole.