Domestic Taxes

Senators may push online sales tax measure in budget

Hughes is referring to a a 1992 Supreme Court decision that says companies only have to collect sales taxes from consumers in states where they have a physical location.

“As the retail industry evolves and digital commerce becomes a more prominent portion of total retail sales, it is critical that the tax laws not discriminate between similar businesses based on how their products are distributed,” wrote David French, NRF’s senior vice president of government relations.  

“This collection disparity has tilted the competitive landscape against local stores creating a crisis for brick-and-mortar retailers around the country and in your state,” he wrote. 

But the move faces continued opposition from companies such as eBay. 

“Small business retailers who use the Internet should be protected from any new grant of power to far-away state government tax collectors so that they cannot be threatened or sued by states that are thousands of miles away and have no connection to the local communities where those small businesses create jobs and opportunity,” said Brian Bieron, senior director of Global Public Policy at eBay. 

“Any Internet sales tax legislation, amendment or other legislative vehicle should include clear, direct and meaningful protection for all small businesses that are using the Internet.”

At the end of last year, retail groups and lawmakers were confident that they had the votes to pass a measure, but time ran out. 

The Senate Democratic budget resolution, which procedurally doesn’t become law, would provide an opportunity for the lawmakers to finally show they have enough votes to pass a measure and test to the momentum that had gathered at the end of the last Congress. 

A vote in favor could lay the ground work for a vote on a separate measure or, possibly, an amendment to a bill that could pass both chambers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he plans to finish up work on the budget this week before leaving Washington for a two-week spring recess, affording the lawmakers a chance to offer the amendment. 

Durbin and Enzi worked with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) for much of the last Congress to pass a measure. 

The three senators tried to attach the legislation to a small-business bill last summer, then targeted the defense authorization at the end of the year, but couldn’t get the provision to a vote.

This story was updated at 7 p.m. 

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