Retail group calls for online sales tax before next holiday season

With the traditional start of the holiday shopping season almost here, a business coalition is urging Congress to take action soon on an online sales tax measure.

The Alliance for Main Street Fairness, in a Wednesday release, said that this should be the last holiday season that federal tax policy gives online retailers a leg up on brick-and-mortar stores.

“It is time for Congress to pass e-fairness legislation and require all retailers, online and on Main Street, to play by the same set of rules,” Alison Joseph, a spokeswoman for the group, said in a statement.

Because of a two-decade-old Supreme Court finding, companies are required to collect sales tax on Internet purchases only from customers in states where they have a physical presence.

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Retail groups say that gives online sellers an unfair advantage, and that their preferred solution would allow states to collect revenue they were already owed from out-of-state buyers. 

Online sales tax bills in Congress have received some support from Republican governors who think a federal online sales tax bill would help them tackle budget crunches. But prominent conservatives say the proposals have it backwards, and that the federal government should instead be looking for ways to lower Americans’ tax burdens. 

Lobbyists also believe that most items that aren’t directly related to the "fiscal cliff," the mix of looming spending cuts and tax increases, will get pushed off until the next Congress.