Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Bill Forcing Online Retailers to Collect Sales Tax Moves Forward

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Bill Forcing Online Retailers to Collect Sales Tax Moves Forward

Article excerpt

The bill is that rare piece of legislation that has turned Democrat against Democrat, Republican against Republican and business against business.

It has been labeled a tax grab and a bureaucratic nightmare by conservative antitax activists, an infringement on states' rights and a federal encroachment on the almost-sacred ground of Internet commerce.

Yet legislation to help states force online retailers to collect sales taxes easily cleared its first procedural U.S. hurdle on Monday evening, and even its fiercest opponents are looking to the House for a last stand. The Senate voted 74-20 to take up the legislation for debate and amendment.

"I'm not above believing in miracles," said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, the activist arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which has made opposition to the Internet tax bill a "key vote" -- so far with little impact.

The bill, known as the Marketplace Fairness Act, is that rare piece of legislation that has turned Democrat against Democrat, Republican against Republican and business against business, while uniting states as different as New Hampshire, Montana and Oregon -- which have no sales taxes -- against virtually every other state.

Under the bill, online retailers would collect an estimated $22 billion to $24 billion that now goes uncollected. A final vote is expected in the Senate by the end of the week. When the House will take up the issue is uncertain.

"We think this is inevitable, with states looking for revenue, with the growth of e-commerce," said Stephen Schatz, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, which has said for years that brick- and-mortar retailers were at a competitive disadvantage against online giants.

"Inevitable" is not a word used often for legislation that Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform mobilizes against and eBay rallies millions of its users to oppose, as they have with this bill. …

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