The City of Camdenton, along with Osage Beach and Lake Ozark and other municipalities around the state, plan to have on-going discussions about taking the issue to a vote of the people.

A few Lake area municipalities are considering putting a use tax proposition on future ballots to begin collecting sales tax from online retail giant Amazon.

The City of Camdenton, along with Osage Beach and Lake Ozark and other municipalities around the state, plan to have on-going discussions about taking the issue to a vote of the people.

A use tax applies to purchases of items and services from out of state vendors while a sales tax applies to purchases made within Missouri. Therefore purchases can only fall into one of those categories and cannot be taxed twice.

The use tax is imposed at the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, and according to the City of Columbia — who attempted to pass a use tax in November 2017 but failed by 132 votes* — approximately half of all Missouri cities with populations of 2,000 or more already have the tax in place.

A new incentive for municipalities to have a use tax on the books came when Amazon announced in January of 2016 that it would begin paying and remitting sales tax in Missouri. Amazon currently collects and remits sales tax in 43 other states.

The Missouri Department of Revenue has not yet released an estimate regarding the increased revenue collected from Amazon, but local officials believe it could be a significant boost.

“We’ve been having discussions with other city administrators, talking about when might be the appropriate and best time to have that. The original discussion we thought April was a good time, but my colleagues aren’t sure yet,” City Administrator Jeff Hancock said. “We want as many cities as possible.”

Hancock said the August and November elections were also possibilities, but would have to submit the proposition to the Camden County Clerk by January 23, 2017 to make the April 2017 ballot.

“The Use Tax levels the playing field for local businesses who are required to pay the local Sales Tax. With no local Use Tax in place, consumers have an incentive to purchase items from out-of-state vendors instead of buying locally,” according to a fact sheet paid for by the City of Columbia. “This costs the city local jobs and tax revenue because millions of dollars are sent out of our state and local economy.”

According to MDOR’s 2016 annual financial report, a total of $129,469,434 worth of local use tax was collected last year, a 4.6-percent increase from fiscal year 2015. When adding $3,148,525,719 in sales tax, the combined collection of both taxes totaled $3,277,995,153 in fiscal year 2016.

In April 2016, Lake area voters took on a similar use tax proposition when they voted to approve the continuation of out-of-state sales tax collection on the purchase of vehicles, boats, trailers and motors.

The cities of Osage Beach, Camdenton, Laurie, and Versailles voted to continue the tax, while Miller County and Four Seasons followed suit in April of 2017. Camden County already has a use tax on the books and in September of 2017 engaged with local attorney Greg Williams to begin the process of collecting sales tax from Amazon.

The moves come at a time when online retailers have claimed a larger share of the market from traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

A California research and analytical data firm specializing in the online marketplace, Slice Intelligence, reported that 43 percent of all the revenue generated in the U.S. online market in 2016 was shared by Amazon.com and Prime Now accounts, which included sales from first and third parties.

“Even more astonishing, Amazon accounted for 53 percent of all online sales growth in the United States,” Slicer Intelligence published on Feb. 1, 2017. “No small feat as e-commerce grew by 24-percent last year, and will likely account for 10 percent of consumer sales in 2017.”

According to the report, Amazon’s growth has been driven by the purchases of electronics and accessories, home and kitchen items, apparel, food, beauty and health supplies. The report also concluded that by December of 2016, the average package was delivered by Amazon in 3.4 days compared to competitors, who averaged 5.6 days.

*CORRECTION: Columbia's Use Tax Proposition did not pass in November of 2017, but failed by 132 votes. The reporter of this story regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion.