One of the VRF’s most pressing issues during this session dealt with the Amazon tax loophole. This “loophole” provided by a 2007 Commission of Revenue opinion gave Amazon.com the opportunity to sell to Virginia consumers on the internet and not collect the sales and use tax at the point of sale. This behavior by Amazon left Virginia Consumers liable for the tax and the responsibility to remit the tax on their annual Virginia State Income Tax.

Legislation introduced and passed this year will close that loophole. In brief, the legislation says that companies with a substantial ownership interest in a warehouse or distribution center have the physical presence required for them to collect the sales tax.

Our association has worked diligently on this issue for two years since our bookstores and other small members brought the Amazon loophole to our attention, this legislation will keep brick-and-mortar retailers in business, preventing job loss and creating jobs in stores that will now be able to compete on a more level playing field.

This was truly a bipartisan fix to ensure a level playing field between Amazon and brick-and-mortar retailers in the Commonwealth. While the VRF would have preferred a July 1, 2012 effective start date for collection of sales tax, the compromise engineered by the Governor is a much better deal than many other states were able to broker. We applaud the legislators and the Governor for their support of brick-and-mortar retailers in Virginia.

If you have any questions regarding the Amazon Loophole or what this means for your business, please contact George Peyton of the Virginia Retail Federation at (804) 662-5505 or Margaret Ballard from the Retail Alliance at (757) 455-9395.

The VRF scored a big victory for retailers this session by helping to pass legislation that will help merchants prosecute shoplifters more effectively.

Legislation sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell, co-patroned by Delegate Sal Iaquinto, and passed by the full General Assembly will allow merchants to pursue criminal and civil action against shoplifters. Under the current law, retailers are forced to choose either civil or criminal prosecution, limiting their ability to receive restitution for the stolen goods.

The VRF strongly supported changing this system to allow retailers the best chance to receive compensation for crimes committed against them.

Virginia is only one of five states that do not allow a retailer to concurrently pursue criminal prosecution and civil restitution. Shoplifting cases cost several thousand dollars to prosecute. Before this bill was passed, if criminal charges were dropped the retailer had no ability to pursue recovery of the costs!

If you have any questions regarding this bill or what this means for your business, please contact Margaret Ballard from the Retail Alliance at (757) 455-9395 or George Peyton of the Virginia Retail Federation at (804) 662-5505.

Each year there are numerous bills introduced that would increase the felony threshold for larceny, which is currently $200. This threshold has been deemed by loss prevention professionals as one of the best or the best deterrent to shoplifting and internal theft. For that reason the VRF has consistently opposed legislation that would increase the threshold.

This year the VRF continued its opposition of raising the felony threshold by lobbying against two bills, both of which would have raised the threshold from $200 to $500. Senator Bryce Reeves of Orange and Fredericksburg, and Delegate Surovell of Fairfax were the patrons of bills that sought to raise the threshold. Due to the opposition of retailers and other groups, Senator Reeves agreed to propose an amendment to his bill that will allow a first offense larceny to be handled as a forced program of monetary restitution, counseling and other mandatory requirements over one year rather than a misdemeanor or felony charge. This would leave the felony threshold at $200 and ensure that repeat offenders are still prosecuted under the felony statute.

This bill was carried over for the year to enable the stakeholders to address a number of issues in the bill. The VRF will work diligently to insure retailers continue to be protected from shoplifters in the Commonwealth.

If you have any questions regarding this bill or what this means for your business, please contact George Peyton of the Virginia Retail Federation at (804) 662-5505 or Margaret Ballard from the Retail Alliance at (757) 455-9395.

This year legislation was introduced that impacts jewelry stores, antiques dealers, pawn shops, and all retailers that buy or take for pawn any precious metals, gems, or second hand merchandise.

The bill, as introduced, would have required pawn brokers and precious metal dealers to either take a photo of each individual who pawned or sold an item to their establishment or take a picture of their photo ID. In addition, the merchant would have been required to take a picture of each individual item that was pawned or sold. The bill was carried over for the year to enable all parties impacted by this legislation to develop a bill that will be easy to implement and provide law enforcement with the information they need when they are investigating larceny or burglaries. The VRF looks forward to working with law enforcement and pawn brokers, jewelers, and all retailers that deal in second hand goods, to provide input from all stakeholders to develop legislation that will serve the needs of all parties.

If you have any questions regarding this bill or what this means for your business, please contact Margaret Ballard from the Retail Alliance at (757) 455-9395 or George Peyton of the Virginia Retail Federation at (804) 662-5505.

The Post Labor Day Statute which is currently in effect in Virginia essentially bars schools from opening before the Labor Day holiday, thus bringing more customers to Virginia businesses by ensuring a longer vacation period. This session there were nearly a dozen bills introduced that would eliminate this statute.

The three bills introduced in the Senate were defeated in committee, however, all bills introduced in the House were combined with HB 1063, which was introduced by Delegate Tata. This bill passed the House of Delegates but was defeated in the Senate. The bill would have allowed local school boards to set the start day for their school calendars before Labor Day. The VRF along with many other business organizations opposed this change. The month of August is critical to the tourism, hospitality and retail industries and the tax dollars generated are critical to the Commonwealth for funding schools and other services. By helping to defeat this measure, the VRF helped to protect our Virginia businesses.

If you have any questions regarding this bill or what this means for your business, please contact Margaret Ballard from the Retail Alliance at (757) 455-9395 or George Peyton of the Virginia Retail Federation at (804) 662-5505.