American shopping habits have been transformed by the Internet to the point that a survey by the National Retail Federation last weekend showed more people shopped online on Thanksgiving and Black Friday than in bricks-and-mortar stores.

That's neither surprising nor a bad thing. In fact, it's another chapter in the age-old story of consumers opting for more convenience. The difference was narrow, as more than 103 million people say they shopped online while just under 102 million people say they shopped in stores over the Thanksgiving weekend.

But the continuing shift to online sales only underscores why Congress must find a way to level the playing field in terms of when and how state and local sales taxes are collected. Efforts have made at the state level, including Massachusetts, but a more encompassing federal effort is required.

There are reasonable concerns about simply authorizing states to tax purchases from out-of-state online retailers of a certain size, which is what local governments that depend on sales taxes understandably would like to see. But there are ways to deal with the potential problems and still achieve taxation equity — and the need to do so grows every year.

San Jose Mercury News