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Maryland Comptroller: Online Shopping 'Unpatriotic'

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Comptroller Peter Franchot buys a melamine salad bowl in The Blue House in Bethesda, Md., making his pitch for supporting local businesses.
Matt Bush
Comptroller Peter Franchot buys a melamine salad bowl in The Blue House in Bethesda, Md., making his pitch for supporting local businesses.

Shopping online during the holiday season has its benefits for consumers — mostly because they don't have to pay sales tax on purchases. It has plenty of drawbacks, too, says Maryland's top financial officer, who has strong words for those who are doing all their holiday shopping on the Internet.

"Online shopping is convenient, but unpatriotic," says Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot. "If you live in Maryland, get off the internet and come down and patronize these wonderful local businesses."

The effect of online shopping, he says, is that it hurts both small businesses, who lose customers, and the state, because it doesn't collect sales tax revenue which pays for things like schools.

Franchot toured the Bethesda business district Wednesday afternoon and urged fellow Marylanders to do the same in their local areas.

Jill Godfrey is the manager of The Blue House in the Woodmont Triangle area of Bethesda — one of the businesses where Franchot shopped on Wednesday. The store sells just about anything craft or ceramic-related, which she says puts the store in a very niche market. Consequently, they sell very little online, hich Godfrey says is fine by them.

"People come not just to shop, but because they care about us and we care about them," says Godfrey. "We know where their children are going to college, we know how their Thanksgiving was, and they feel the same way about us. It's a real community organization."

Franchot expects the federal government to move soon on some sort of online sales tax legislation, which he says is needed, because the state has very little power to do anything about it.

In February, Amazon agreed to collect sales tax on purchased made in Virginia after officials in the commonwealth voiced similar concerns.

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