On March 11, PPAI joined the Rocky Mountain Regional Promotional Products Association (RMRPPA) and Colorado-based industry members in Denver for the first-ever L.E.A.D. Local Colorado. PPAI staff and industry participants held 10 meetings with state senators, representatives and their staff members to discuss both local and national issues important to promotional products businesses.

“The promotional products industry, as we all know, has had a number of industry challenges in recent years,” says Ben Irvin, owner and president of Picasso Group Custom Products, and a RMRPPA board member. “This includes tariff concerns, new ‘big box’ market participants and changing state tax laws that impact both our industry suppliers and distributors. RMRPPA Executive Director Julie Schoenbauer and the board of directors felt it was time to ‘take it to the state’ on behalf of advocating for all the members of our association.”

Irvin and Schoenbauer are members of the RMRPPA’s governmental taskforce and were joined at the Colorado state capitol by the taskforce’s third member, Brian Grall, owner and president of distributor LogoMyBiz.com in Evergreen, along with PPAI Public Affairs Director Anne Stone and Public Affairs Manager Maurice Norris. An important development that spurred L.E.A.D. Local Colorado was a new rule by the state Department of Revenue issued as a reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wayfair vs. South Dakota decision. The rule allows every jurisdiction in Colorado to enforce their own remote seller tax requirements, even on an intrastate basis.

Irvin says, “Our decision to ‘take it to the state’ became a ‘no-brainer’ when the state of Colorado made changes to the state Sales and Use Tax Collection, as a result of the Wayfair Supreme Court decision. After the Supreme Court decision, most states are analyzing the decision and proposing new legislation. In the case of Colorado, it is now the responsibility of the seller to collect all state and local taxes. That might not sound like anything out of the ordinary until you look closer at the new changes to Colorado state law. The state initially provided approximately 30 days to come into compliance. Again, this might not sound difficult but, quite frankly, it is daunting. Colorado has over 770 combinations of state and local taxes. You can be in any neighborhood and find that the tax rate is different than your neighbor next door. It is generally understood that Colorado sales tax combinations make our state the most complicated tax metric of all 50 states.”

The group brought a three-pronged message to the state’s legislators:

1. Promotional Products Work!—They shared that nationwide the industry was responsible for revenues topping $23 billion, more than 489,000 jobs and 40,000-plus promotional product companies. In Colorado, it produced more than $200 million in revenue, 900 promotional product companies and in excess of 6,600 promotional product jobs.

2. The Global Value Chain Economics—While normally a subject left for federal-level meetings, the taskforce wanted to express their concerns regarding tariffs and explain where industry products originate from and typically how many hands the products might go through before ultimately being printed in the U.S. for our market. These products are decorated by American workers and used to promote American goods and services.

3. Colorado Sales Tax Collection—The task force expressed the importance of simplifying sales tax collection. They wanted each legislature to understand that many industry distributors only have three or fewer employees and complicated sales tax collection would, in essence, place an undue burden on the industry’s small businesses. They also expressed how for larger businesses, upgrading software and hiring accountants/bookkeepers to conform to the new collection policy would become necessary and expensive.

“We shared three topics that have importance to our RMRPPA and PPAI members,” says Grall. “Having served for advocating with PPAI’s annual L.E.A.D. initiative for a few years, bringing those particular topics to the state government level was highly valuable. Many of the Colorado General Assembly members and their staff were very thankful for learning the value of promotional products, the effects tariffs have on their constituents, and also the real life information regarding the impact of retail sales tax situation in Colorado and beyond arising from the Wayfair decision.”

Schoenbauer adds, “The RMRPPA participates in the annual L.E.A.D. trip to Washington D.C. in May, and our visit to the Denver Capitol on March 11 was the first time our association has done a L.E.A.D. Local event in our state. It was a fantastic experience, and very timely considering that there are some new changes to our sales tax laws that are making it even more burdensome for the small businesses in our industry. Brian, Ben and I, along with Maurice and Anne, were able to share the value and importance of promotional products, as well as our tax concerns with the offices of 11 different legislators. We felt that our message was well received during the meetings and we were able to educate all of them more fully about our industry. We are contacting each legislator this week to follow up after the meetings. The L.E.A.D. Local event was very beneficial for our association and we hope to do it again next year!

RMRPPA and its governmental taskforce is writing notes to each member it met with, thanking them for their time and requesting their vote to make Colorado sales tax collection simpler and more business-friendly. Fundraising by the association is allowing it to continue advocating on the state level and join the “Simplify Colorado Sales Tax Coalition” and its board. The coalition was formed in 2015 and is a mix of many types of business in Colorado.

Irvin says, “Our task force is alive and well, being proactive and innovative for all the members of RMRPPA. We want to make a positive impact for our members and we are proud to work on their behalf so we can all remain successful.”

Find details on the Wayfair tax rule in PPB’s March issue.