The Senate will likely vote today on the Internet Sales Tax: S. 743, the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act.
Both of Idaho’s Senators voted for this in the vote-o-rama, when the Senate was passing their first budget in 4 years. The feds will use retail stores to reach across state lines and collect their sales tax for the state goverment as a revenue stream. Instead of advocating for responsible fiscal govt, this will only encourage reckless spending.
Please call your Senators and urge a NO Vote on this bill.
The Internet Sales Tax Rush
Harry Reid and Wal-Mart hope nobody will notice their online revenue raid.
Every time Congress has taken a serious look at proposals to boost Internet sales taxes, it has rejected them. That’s probably why pro-tax Senators are trying to rush through an online tax hike with as little consideration as possible.
As early as Monday, the Senate will vote on a bill that was introduced only last Tuesday. The text of this legislation, which would fundamentally change interstate commerce, only became available on the Library of Congress website over the weekend. And you thought ObamaCare was jammed through Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic House in a hurry.
For Senators curious about what they’re voting on, it is the same flawed proposal that Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) introduced in February. It has been repackaged to qualify for a Senate rule that allows Majority Leader Harry Reid to bypass committee debate and bring it straight to the floor.
Mr. Enzi’s Marketplace Fairness Act discriminates against Internet-based businesses by imposing burdens that it does not apply to brick-and-mortar companies. For the first time, online merchants would be forced to collect sales taxes for all of America’s estimated 9,600 state and local taxing authorities.
New Hampshire, for example, has no sales tax, but a Granite State Web merchant would be forced to collect and remit sales taxes to all the governments that do. Small online sellers will therefore have to comply with tax laws created by distant governments in which they have no representation, and in places where they consume no local services.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire’s brick-and-mortar retailers will bear no such burden. They will not be required to collect taxes on the many customers who drive across the Maine and Massachusetts borders to shop in New Hampshire. Bill sponsors say it would be too big a hassle to force traditional retailers to ask every walk-in customer where they live, but these Senators are happy to impose new obligations online.
The Enzi plan would require a centralized tax collector for each state or for a group of states that would gather both state and local levies from the online merchants. His office concedes that could still mean 27 or more different auditors of a Web-based business—which is better than 9,600 but hardly qualifies as simplicity.
The drivers of this rush to tax are Wal-Mart and other big retailers that can more easily absorb the costs of collection than can smaller competitors. Also supporting the bill is Internet giant Amazon, which coincidentally now sells its own tax compliance service to other merchants. Adding to the lobbying muscle are state and local governments. The politicians believe they’ll collect tens of billions of dollars in taxes that are already owed by shoppers on remote sales but rarely paid.
So big business and big government are uniting to pursue their mutual interest in sticking it to the little guy. Any Internet seller with more than $1 million in annual sales would be forced to serve all of the nation’s tax collectors. It’s true that many small brick-and-mortar retailers in states with sales taxes support the Enzi bill. They say they’re at a disadvantage as customers examine products in their showrooms and then go home to buy them tax-free. On the other hand, some customers use retail websites for research before buying at a local store.
But even if the goal is to “level the playing field” in favor of Main Street, it won’t happen. Mr. Enzi cannot possibly force all the world’s Internet businesses to collect local U.S. taxes. So instead of shifting sales from online to bricks-and-mortar, he might succeed in shifting them from U.S. online merchants to foreign ones.
This rush to tax is an attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Quill v. North Dakota that forcing businesses to collect and remit taxes to jurisdictions where they have no physical presence was too big a burden. Though that ruling applied to catalogs in the pre-Internet age, it established an important principle of cross-state tax accountability.
Congress does have the power to write new rules for interstate commerce. But for years even politicians who wanted to force remote sellers to collect taxes conceded that it would only work if states and localities dramatically simplified their tax systems. That has never happened. So now the tax collectors promise that software will figure out how every item is taxed in every town in America.
Perhaps software will flawlessly determine, for example, what is classified as candy for tax purposes and what is considered food in each jurisdiction. But the legislation itself contemplates confusion, as it spells out when a merchant is liable for errors and when a software vendor takes the blame. The way governments work, they’ll penalize both merchants and the software vendors for mistakes.
Some of our conservative friends are backing this Internet tax raid as a way to raise revenue to avoid more state income-tax increases. More likely the new revenues will merely fund larger government. Republicans who are realists about government would be wiser to join Senators Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), who are leading the opposition.
Update: Go to the We R Here Coalition and take action against this abhorrent tax.