Bipartisan group of senators introduce online sales tax bill

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 "The legislation addresses a states’ rights issue: preserving the right of states to collect – or to decide not to collect – taxes that are already owed under state law," Sen. Alexander said in a statement.

 “Most small business people don’t want a government handout. They don’t want special treatment. They just want to be able to compete fairly against other businesses," Sen. Durbin said.

The lawmakers argue the bill will help states to close their budget deficits. 

The measure is similar to Durbin's Mainstreet Fairness Act, which he introduced in July. But unlike that bill, the measure introduced on Wednesday has attracted bipartisan support.

Christina Mulka, a spokeswoman for Durbin, said the senator will focus his attention on pushing the latest version of the legislation.

Daniel Patrick Head, a spokesman for Enzi, said the new bill gives the states more flexibility about how to collect the tax than Durbin's original bill did. It also exempts small retailers from the collection requirements.

The other senators who have signed on to the legislation are Sens. Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonSeveral hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Court ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada MORE (D-S.D.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen MORE (R-Ark.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedTrump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase Pentagon chief nominee: 'We need to get back on the diplomatic channel' with Iran MORE (D-R.I.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (R-Mo.) Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip MORE (D-R.I.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.) and Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.).           

The National Retail Federation, which represents traditional retailers, praised the bill and promised to intensify its lobbying in favor of an online sales tax.

“As the industry that employs one out of every four Americans, we are determined to help make this goal become reality," Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said.

But many online companies trashed the measure, arguing it would destroy jobs.

"It does not make sense to expand Internet sales tax burdens on small businesses at a time when we want entrepreneurs to create jobs and economic activity,” Tod Cohen, general counsel at online auction site eBay, said in a statement.

"Congress should be focusing on promoting online commerce — not introducing measures which will stifle it," Kevin Richards, vice president for federal government affairs at trade group TechAmerica, said.

Steve DelBianco, executive director of advocacy group NetChoice, argued that the bill would not produce much new revenue for states. He pointed to a study which found that uncollected sales tax revenues in 2008 were about $3.9 billion, or less than 1 percent of all state and local tax revenue.

“In essence, we’re seeing some members of Congress throw one of our best growth industries under the bus to pursue less than half a penny in new taxes,” he said.  “Does anyone besides big-box retailers really think it’s a good idea to saddle small-business owners with a new tax system?”

One major online retailer that supports the bill is Amazon. The company argues that the country needs a single national framework for collecting online taxes. 

Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president of global public policy, said in a statement that Amazon "strongly supports" the bill and will work with Congress, retailers and the states to pass it into law. 

This post was updated at 5:20 p.m.