Internet Usage and State Sales Tax Competition
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Kenneth E. Anderson, Donald J. Bruce, William F. Fox
This paper examines the influence of increasing access to the Internet and increasing online purchasing on sales tax competition among the states. Prior research indicates that the tax rates set by a state’s geographical neighbors influence the tax rate set by the home state. As consumers gain access to the Internet and begin to participate in online shopping, their opportunity cost to participate in cross-border shopping decreases and their “mobility” may increase due to the ease of purchasing from vendors lacking nexus in the consumer’s home state. Thus, states may begin to respond less to the sales tax changes of their geographic neighbors and may begin to define competitors differently. I find that increases in both the percentage of the population having Internet access and the percentage of the population making online purchases influence the response of a state to its neighbors’ tax rates. Specifically, states with higher percentages of either of these measures have more positive response functions when examining the “effective Internet tax rate” definition of neighbor. States appear to respond only slightly to changes in the tax rates of their geographic neighbors.
This paper also examines the influence of Internet usage on the sales tax revenues of the states by separating the influences of cross-border shopping through traditional means and through the Internet. Research finds that consumers who live near physical borders are more responsive to tax differences than are consumers who live farther from physical borders. As more consumers access the Internet and begin to purchase goods online, all consumers may become as responsive to tax differences as are those who live near physical borders. Thus, both traditional means of cross-border shopping and cross-border shopping through use of the Internet would be expected to influence the sales tax revenues of a state. Surprisingly, I find that sales tax revenue per capita appears to increase with an increase in my measure of Internet-based cross-border shopping. This may indicate that online shopping does not act entirely as a substitute for local forms of shopping but rather represents an increase in consumption.
Howard, Mary E., "Internet Usage and State Sales Tax Competition. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2007.