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Grassroots Movements Growing To Fight Massachusetts Tech Tax

In response to growing anger around the Massachusetts software services tax, businesses are rallying supporters to fight back against the tech tax in the courts and in the legislature.

After a disjointed start, Massachusetts tech businesses are beginning to rally together to fight the newly implemented tax on software services in the state. Two new movements have started, one to place an injunction on the tax and the other to rally more legislators to the repeal effort.

The Spark Coalition is a group of small-business technology companies working with attorney Scott Foster, a partner at Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas in Springfield, Mass., to get the issue before the courts. Foster said that the tax could be challenged on the basis that it is too vague for implementation.

The group, a pending nonprofit, has been attending the Department of Revenue focus groups, collaborating with groups leading the charge on the ballot initiatives and rallying business owners to their cause.

[Related: Mass. State Rep: 10 Reasons I Opposed The Tech Tax, And Still Do ]

"We want to be able to provide an emergency network that can inform and help in a way that hasn't been done before," said Joe Baz, president of the Spark Coalition and founder and CEO of Above The Fold Design in Cambridge, Mass. Baz said that business owners are too busy running their business to scour all of the bills in the legislature, especially ones pertaining to transportation, for taxes that could affect their bottom line. The Spark Coalition intends to help fill that void.

Baz said he doesn't know yet if the Spark Coalition will officially be the plaintiff behind the court case against the tax, but he said the group will continue to fight alongside leaders of the ballot initiative and legislature repeal movement by Sen. Karen Spilka.

NEXT: The Beacon Hill Blitz And How To Get Involved


Another initiative is working to get legislators who voted against the tax on board for the repeal movement. Called the "Beacon Hill Blitz," organizer Brian Cardarella, partner at Boston-based DockYard, a Web and mobile application development software consultancy, is working to flood Beacon Hill, the home of Boston's state house and legislature, with calls to legislators Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day.

"We just want to let Beacon Hill to know we are paying attention and, while we were not involved before, we are now," Cardarella said.

Cardarella said the goal is to rally local businesses to get 400 phone calls through to local legislators to inform them about the effect the tax is having on tech businesses in the state. The 400 calls would amount to two calls per state legislator in the House and Senate. Cardarella said that he is not hoping to target any leaders in particular but rather blanket every legislator on Beacon Hill in calls.

To help facilitate the calls, Cardarella has developed a call tool that connects people wanting to help the cause with phone numbers for their legislators. The tool keeps track of how many calls have been completed and to what effect in a quick survey. The whole process should take only five minutes, Cardarella said.

Cardarella also has assembled a list of talking points and tips for making the calls as effective as possible. He said people can call and talk about whatever they want, but they should focus on the position that this tax is going to hurt more businesses than anticipated.

"We are just interested in laying out the general position that this tax is going to raise more than the $161 million predicted by the Department of Revenue," Cardarella said, adding that he has heard predictions as high as $1.2 billion in revenue from the tax. "Hopefully this will really lend weight to getting us on the road to a possible repeal."

Rep. Matthew Beaton, who voted against the tax, said that the Beacon Hill Blitz could be effective if done correctly, although he worried some legislators would not be in their offices when there is no formal session and it is so close to Labor Day weekend. Cardarella said if the event went well, he would help schedule more call-in dates.

The Beacon Hill Blitz will begin Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. EST. Those looking to get involved can go to the event's website, which will open to the call tool when the event begins. Those interested in joining the Spark Coalition are encouraged by Baz to join the mailing list on the group's website to stay up-to-date on the tech tax issue in the state.

PUBLISHED AUG. 30, 2013

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