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November 9, 2011 at 7:58 AM

Durbin tries again with sales-tax bill aimed at Amazon

Posted by Kyung M. Song

Updated at 9 a.m. with responses from Amazon and eBay:

WASHINGTON -- Three months after introducing a bill to require Amazon and other online retailers to collect sales taxes that went nowhere, Sen. Dick Durbin is trying again with a compromise legislation.

Durbin, the Senate Democratic Whip from Illinois, on Wednesday introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act, an amended version of the Main Street Fairness Act he introduced in July with five Democratic co-sponsors. This time, Durbin's co-sponsors include five Republicans, including Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

Perhaps more crucially, the new bill seeks to preempt previous opposition from online auction site eBay by exempting small online vendors from collecting the taxes. But the change didn't satisfy eBay.

“This is another Internet sales tax bill that fails to protect small business retailers using the Internet and will unbalance the playing field between giant retailers and small business competitors," Tod Cohen, eBay's vice president for government relations, said in a statement. "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.”

Seattle-based Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, has pushed back vigorously against individual states' efforts to require sales taxes to be tacked on to online orders. Amazon has argued that uniform, national standards are needed to ensure fairness. The company has not taken an explicit position on Durbin's bills. On Wednesday morning, Amazon issued a statement voicing "strong support" for the revised bill.

“Amazon strongly supports enactment of the Enzi-Durbin-Alexander bill and will work with Congress, retailers, and the states to get this bi-partisan legislation passed,” said Paul Misener, Amazon vice president, global public policy. “It’s a win-win resolution -- and as analysts have noted, Amazon offers customers the best prices with or without sales tax.”

Amazon collects sales taxes in just five of the 45 states with the tax. Amazon collects taxes on shipments to residents of Washington, where its headquarters are located. Under a pair of Supreme Court rulings, states can require merchants to collect sales taxes only if they have a physical presence, such as stores or warehouses. Otherwise, consumers are required to pay equivalent "use" taxes -- something virtually no one does.

The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to compell online retailers to collect sales taxes. Though states would be free not to exercise that power, Durbin noted that cash-strapped states are losing $23 billion annually in uncollected use and sales taxes.

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poky: "I just rented the DVD Atlas Shrugged. Very prophetic." I love reading posts from neo-conservatives who haven't a clue what...  Posted on November 10, 2011 at 11:40 AM by floodpants. Jump to comment
I just rented the DVD Atlas Shrugged. Very prophetic.  Posted on November 10, 2011 at 7:34 AM by POKYHOMT. Jump to comment
Internet commerce has had it's promotional tax exeption long enough. It's a viable venue and needs to paricipate equally with the rest...  Posted on November 10, 2011 at 6:51 AM by m2po. Jump to comment

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