Last summer I paid a considerable sum to have my house painted by a local, North Shore painting contractor. But the money was worth it, and I was pleased not only with the quality of the work, and but also with the fact that the contractor bought all the paint from our local RAM member, mom & pop hardware store. The local economy benefited, as did the taxman because the contractor didn’t take the trip to NH or go online to buy that large quantity of paint in order to avoid the 6.25% sales tax. But it got me thinking, where is the tipping point that pushes a contractor or a do-it-yourselfer to decide to take that ride north of the border to avoid higher, government imposed costs?

Being debated in the Massachusetts Legislature is a bill (S2052) that may indeed be that tipping point which pushes sales away from our local hardware and paint stores. Written by big paint manufacturers trying to pass the buck to consumers on the cost to fund their industry’s product collection and recycling program, this new tax on top of the state sales tax will push the cost differential between a Massachusetts and New Hampshire store for a gallon of paint to around $4 per gallon.

Although a few other states have passed this industry model bill being peddled by paint manufacturer lobbyists, I wonder if those manufacturers have stopped to consider what the very detrimental impact will be on their Massachusetts retailer customers, which must deal every day with the competitive pressures of non-taxed sellers. The reality is that just as consumers can easily avoid the sales tax by a quick drive or a few strokes of the smartphone, so too will they be able to avoid this paint tax.

And particularly troubling is that there are interest group pressures on other product manufacturers to institute these same upfront consumer taxes on everything from electronics, to batteries, carpeting, household chemicals, mattresses—virtually everything sold in a retail store! My question to those activists is: Where are the triggered reductions in our property taxes as local waste and recycling programs move to a new funding model, directly funded by upfront taxation of consumer products?

To the paint manufacturers and activist groups pushing this anti-consumer and anti-small Massachusetts retailer agenda, my message is: Go up to New Hampshire and pass both a sales tax and a product tax, and also figure out how you will mandate the same on the Internet giants, and then come back and talk. Until then, write the checks yourselves to fund your proposed costly program.


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