A new organization was founded last week with the goal of representing small businesses across the state, and an Upper Arlington businessman is a founding member.

A new organization was founded last week with the goal of representing small businesses across the state, and an Upper Arlington businessman is a founding member.

Jack Seibert, president of Jack Seibert Goldsmith & Jeweler, joined several other Ohio business owners on Jan. 26 in the founding of the Ohio Main Street Leadership Council (OMSLC), which aims to represent Ohio's small businesses in remedying what they see as an online sales tax disparity.

Seibert said the disparity is caused by the fact that online retailers in Ohio are not collecting sales tax at the point of sale, where traditional brick and mortar retailers are required to collect and remit sales tax.

"For years we have seen this loophole hurt local businesses and destroy communities," Seibert said. "I'm proud to know that I am working to fix the system and save jobs."

Seibert said that as more and more business is conducted online, traditional shops and businesses are having difficulty keeping up with online retailers who are not required to collect sales tax.

While Ohio consumers are technically required to self-report and pay sales taxes on purchases made online, less than 1 percent of Ohio State income tax returns in 2010 included tax payments on such purchases, according to a study conducted by the University of Cincinnati.

"I think all over Ohio, the lack of revenue generated from Internet vendors is amazing, and a lot of people aren't as impacted as those with small goods that are easily transported across state lines," Seibert said. "When you shop at a store like mine, we're required to charge and forward the sales tax to the state. It's real simple. It's the law. That's how the state gets income to pay for a lot of our social services.

"A lot of my customers ask why we charge these additional taxes compared to online retailers, and I have to tell them we're not charging extra, we're just collecting the state's taxes."

According to UC's study, not requiring online retailers to collect sales tax at the point of sale cost Ohio more than $200 million in revenues in 2011, and about $1.1 billion between 2007 and 2012. The study claims that achieving parity between retail stores and Internet retailers would allow the state to recapture 11,000 direct retail jobs.

Seibert said that the OMSLC is in its very beginning stage, and looking for new ideas.

"This is just one of those things that no one has yet taken the initiative to solve a complex problem," he said. "It's not something that will be easy, no one likes taxes, so the solution is something that's going to be difficult to arrive at.

"But this is an important issue, and one that will only be exacerbated if we don't solve the problem of equitable taxation."

Joining Seibert in founding the OMSLC are Gordon Gough (executive vice president of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants), John Marshall (owner, Grismer Tire), Ian Budd (owner, ICB Audio and Video), Carol Hughes (executive director of the Springboro Chamber of Commerce), Neal Felstein (owner, Woodville Surplus), David Lewis (owner, Lewis Electronics) and Jim Schwartz (president, Robin James Jewelers).