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The go-to place for Revere Ware

Having turned 10 years old as a resource and provider of replacement parts this year, it is apt that we engage in a little self-reflection on what we’ve accomplished.  Here’s a little tidbit that we discovered recently.  Search Google for “Revere Ware” and select images.

Of the roughly 300 images returned, 39 of them, or about 13% are from our site or our revereware.org site.  I suppose then by at least that measure, we are the Internet’s leading authority on Revere Ware.

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RevereWare.org updated

We spent some time this weekend updating the RevereWare.org eBay helper site.  If you aren’t familiar with this site, it finds all the Revere Ware related listings on eBay and separates them into different categories and sizes.

Algorithm updates include:

  • Better categorization; many things that were in the wrong category are now properly sorted
  • Categories that have listings that offer multiple sizes, like lids, are now categorized as such and appear at the bottom of the list.
  • Better job finding the correct size for items.
  • Added size sorting to more categories

It’s an ongoing challenge to keep the listings organized, as sellers don’t use the same standards for listing titles, but we do our best.

We also added a category for kids play sets, as there are more of them appearing these days.  That is in addition to the recent addition of the Tri-Ply cookware category.

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Sales tax fiasco update

If you read our blog, you know that the sales tax landscape changed dramatically in 2018 due to the Wayfair v South Dakota ruling.  Earlier this year, with no legislative mitigation on the horizon, we started thinking of this as a potential show stopper for businesses like ours; the complexity of filing hundreds or thousands of sales tax returns could easily make a business like ours not feasible.

Last month, we saw some progress as Colorado passed a law that transferred tax responsibility to third party marketplaces like Amazon.com, for independent sellers that use them.

We’ve seen some additional movement on this issue, some good, some bad.

From a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:

But states have since enacted disparate rules, which as we warned are straining small business. As a case in point, the Kansas Department of Revenue will now require all out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax no matter how much business they do in the state. This includes college students selling used textbooks on eBay and retirees hawking a few hand-made greeting cards on Etsy .

While the lack of a small-business exception can be attributed to partisan politics, this still leaves small businesses like ours exposed to harassment.

While most states have adopted South Dakota’s $100,000 small-business exception, they haven’t adjusted the sales threshold to their population size. This isn’t surprising since the Court didn’t demand it, and most construed South Dakota’s thresholds as a safe harbor.

But a $100,000 sales exemption in South Dakota with a population of 880,000 would be equivalent to more than $1 million in larger states like Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In California it would be roughly $4.5 million, nearly 10 times higher than the $500,000 exemption the state has set. A small vintner or craftsman could easily exceed these thresholds.

This makes a very good point that I haven’t seen discussed yet.  The $100,000 / 200 transaction threshold seems to have been adopted across the board.  For a business like ours whose average sale price is low, 200 transactions amounts to about $2,500 in sales.

Some states like Arkansas, Colorado and Illinois exclude “marketplace” sales on sites like Amazon and eBay from their thresholds for individual sellers, but many do not. And some states require marketplaces to collect sales tax for third-party retailers. The upshot is that a retailer who sells on eBay, Shopify and Amazon will exceed different state thresholds at different times.

Which raises the issue of when sellers must register with states. In many states, retailers must register immediately after they exceed the sales threshold. But Tennessee says sellers must register the first day of the third month following the month in which the dealer met the threshold, but no earlier than July 1, 2017.

What a mess!  A small business like ours is responsible for being aware of all the rules; we don’t get an exception for ignorance.  For example, California’s approach:

Consider California, which in June required Amazon third-party merchants to pay up to three years of back taxes. Democrats claimed they were being gracious by not requiring more.

On the more positive side, we got an email from Amazon.com recently, the first that actually provides some useful information about their sales tax system and practices.

23 states have passed legislation that transfers the tax responsibility from you to Amazon for the products that you sell in Amazon’s store. In these 23 states, Amazon calculates, collects, and remits tax. Amazon’s tax collection in these states is based strictly on state legislation and there is currently no option for selling partners to opt-out. On July 1, 2019, based on changes to Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming State tax laws, Amazon began calculating, collecting, and remitting sales and use tax for all orders shipped to customers in these eight states. Beginning September 1, Ohio will also join the mix.
Marketplace Tax Collection States
State Effective Date
Arkansas July 1, 2019
Indiana July 1, 2019
Kentucky July 1, 2019
New Mexico July 1, 2019
Rhode Island July 1, 2019
Virginia July 1, 2019
West Virginia July 1, 2019
Wyoming July 1, 2019
Vermont June 6, 2019
Idaho July 1, 2019
New York July 1, 2019
South Carolina April 29, 2019
Nebraska April 1, 2019
District of Columbia April 1, 2019
South Dakota March 1, 2019
Alabama January 1, 2019
Iowa January 1, 2019
Connecticut December 1, 2018
New Jersey November 1, 2018
Minnesota October 1, 2018
Oklahoma July 1, 2018
Pennsylvania April 1, 2018
Washington January 1, 2018

It’s a good start, but, it is only 23 out of 50 states, which means we are still responsible for the other 27 states.

Furthermore, we are still responsible for being aware of individual state policies, tracking sales to individual states, implementing potentially hundreds or thousands specific tax jurisdiction sales tax collection rates, and potentially submitting multiple returns to individual states with complex calculations for sales taxes that are due in individual jurisdictions.

While about 2/3 of our sales go through Amazon now, retaining a sales channel independent of any 3rd party merchant is important for independence, and the off-chance that they arbitrarily decide to suspend our account.   The danger is that if marketplaces like Amazon.com take responsibility for collecting sales tax and filing returns, while the states don’t figure out a streamlined system for independent merchants, it could further tip the scales away from independent sellers and give more power to sellers like Amazon.com, some that few would argue is a desirable outcome.

I hope the states and federal government get off their collective duff and create a solution to this problem soon.

 

 

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When the Revere Ware brand mattered

This listing for Revere Ware branded aluminum foil reminds us that there was a time when the Revere Ware brand was strong enough to sell a product for which quality isn’t so much a differentiator; when is the last time you thought about the brand of aluminum foil you purchased and worried about getting an inferior quality product?

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More Google Trends fun

Every once-in-a-while I like to play around with Google Trends and see what it can tell me about Revere Ware interest.  Here is the interest in the search term “revere ware” since 2004 (the earliest they offer).

So what can we glean from this?

First, clearly Revere Ware is a dying brand.  Interest now is about 1/4 of what it was in 2004.  But if you look at the last 5 years or so, you can see that the interest in Revere Ware has leveled off and isn’t really declining much anymore. My guess is that the historical original day-to-day Revere Ware users are being replaced now by the nostalgic users and vintage buffs.  For example, I didn’t think much about Revere Ware before about the mid-2000’s, and here I am now, neck deep in it.

The second thing is that the search trends very clearly show what we’ve seen for years in terms of our cyclical sales; people are much more interested in Revere Ware around the holidays.

If we include Google Shopping results only, we can clearly see the death of new Revere Ware sales after Corelle abandoned the brand.

If we look at just images searches, we can see it is increasing slightly over time.

This supports the nostalgic interest theory; more people are posting images of Revere Ware to Instagram, etc.  If we compare the level of interest in Revere Ware searches with searches for the term “vintage cookware”:

 

And indeed, interest in the term vintage cookware is slightly increasing over time.

That’s all for now.

 

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Sales tax complexity relief is slow in coming, but there is progress

We’ve blogged a number of times on the coming sales tax armageddon that is coming due to the South Dakota vs Wayfair Supreme Court decision, unless something is done.

A new law in Colorado is the first I’ve seen that attempts to address this issue.  This quote from a member of the Colorado Senate does a good job of describing the issue:

Colorado has 344 taxing jurisdictions that include cities, counties and special districts, and 638 unique tax rates, Meneghel said. It would be a huge operational burden on small businesses to file up to about 600 new tax returns each month without the grace period that the law provides, he said.

Colorado’s solution is:

The new law also provides that businesses that sell through a marketplace facilitator such as Amazon or similar online entities are exempt from collecting and remitting sales tax; that responsibility will fall to the marketplace entity beginning Oct. 1.

That’s exactly one of the solutions we were hoping for.  Amazon.com for one, doesn’t have a great system for helping their 3rd party Marketplace sellers handle sales tax.  It is incredibly difficult to just find out what sales occurred where.   They, on the other hand, would have no problem collecting sales tax, and submitting returns, for every jurisdiction in the US, which they probably already do.

In addition to requiring marketplace facilitators to collect sales tax on their sellers behalf, there are a couple of other solutions I can think of.

  • Instead of just a threshold of sales into a state to trigger collection of sales tax in that state, have a federally mandated threshold, below which any seller is only required to collect sales tax in the jurisdiction where they are located.

Many, if not most business licensing schemes work with a gross receipts threshold; say, below $250,000 in gross receipts, you pay a flat business license fee; above it you pay a percentage of gross receipts as a business license fee.  Why not have such a threshold for engaging sales tax complexity?

But this is really just a partial solution.  There will be a huge burden placed on a business the minute they surpass the threshold.  But at least that would allow some small businesses to avoid the sales tax trap.

  • Create a federal technical system for collecting sales tax and distributing it to the right jurisdictions

Imagine a Federally mandated tax calculation system / service you could plug into any e-commerce software that would calculate the exact sales tax due for where an order is shipped.  A merchant would then simply pay the federal tax collection agency the total sales tax collected and they would distribute it to the proper jurisdictions.

Okay, so governments don’t have a great track record when it comes to implementing technology systems.  If a Federal law existed that removed the requirement for businesses filing returns in every jurisdiction for which sales tax was collected, in lieu of using a private service that offered the above solution, that would enable private services to start offering such a collection and distribution service.  I would gladly pay a reasonable fee for a service like this.

The point is, something needs to be done to allow small businesses to simply exist in this new sales tax reality.  And imagine how much wasted time and money on sales tax compliance businesses of all sizes could recoup with a setup like this.

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