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Bill Proposed to Require Online Retailers to Collect Sales Taxes

02/14/2013 | By Allen Kenney

Bill Proposed to Require Online Retailers to Collect Sales Taxes

Legislators from both sides of the aisle in Washington introduced a bill in the House of Representatives and Senate on Feb. 14 aimed at requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases.

Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-SD) and Reps. Steve Womack (R-AR), Kristi Noem (R-SD), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT) and John Conyers (D-MI) introduced identical bills in both chambers (House: H.R. 684; Senate: S. 336). Similar measures were proposed in both houses of Congress in 2011 as part of the last two-year legislative cycle, which ended in January.

Supporters of the legislation, known as the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, say it would help level the playing field between online retailers and their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Advocates of the bill also note that it would simplify state tax filing for individuals and help address state budget shortfalls at no cost to the federal government. States lost an estimated $23.3 billion in uncollected sales taxes in 2012, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“The Marketplace Fairness Act would create a more level playing field on which all retailers may compete,” said NAREIT President and CEO Steven A. Wechsler. “It also would provide a critical source of revenues needed by our state governments today.”

The Marketplace Fairness Act also provides an exemption for small businesses and would relieve consumers from the burden of self-reporting sales and use taxes that are already owed.

The bill has garnered widespread support among industry organizations, including NAREIT. A host of online retailers, including industry bellwether Amazon.com, are also backing the proposal.

“The Marketplace Fairness Act will give all sellers the chance to compete in a free market without government preferences, relieve consumers of having to self-report sales/use taxes they already owe, exempt truly small businesses, and give states a roadmap for simplification that will provide them with flexibility to respond to today’s evolving marketplace,” said the Marketplace Fairness Coalition, a conglomeration of industry groups that support the bill, in a written statement. The National League of Cities, which represents 19,000 cities, towns and villages, also expressed support for the bill.

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