Articles on online sales tax focus on politics

Seattle Times: Battle over Internet sales taxes rekindles in Congress

Seattle Times: Battle over Internet sales taxes rekindles in Congress

Two recent articles, one from the Seattle Times and one from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette (MA), focus on the politics of online sales tax legislation and offer incisive analyses of the current political situation.

Although it focuses largely on Amazon and its actions regarding online sales tax, the Seattle Times article includes an insightful analysis of the momentum behind online sales tax legislation and which groups support and which oppose such legislation, and why.

According to the article, momentum for online sales tax legislation is building in part because states are pushing for it:

Now state governments, many in fiscal straits, are aggressively pursuing the estimated $8.6 billion in taxes on Internet and catalog sales that went uncollected last year.

“The state legislatures are telegraphing to Congress that it’s time to act,” said professor Edward Zelinsky, an authority on tax law at Yeshiva University in New York who is following the Amazon case closely.

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette article hardly mentions Amazon at all, but it includes a similar analysis of the movement toward online sales tax collection. It quotes several state and federal lawmakers, more than we’ve seen quoted in any other article, and considers the various types of legislation in play.

In just one example of its political analysis, the article considers why lawmakers changed the name of the Main Street Fairness Act:

Politics is at play, Mr. Delahunt said, with “significant players such as Amazon and E-Bay” playing on “the nervousness in Washington about getting near anything that may be misinterpreted” as raising taxes. He quickly rebranded his “streamlined sales tax” bill to the “Main Street Fairness Act” but it had little effect.

We were also interested to see in this article a figure we hadn’t yet seen in any other publication:

For example, Georgia, which joined the coalition this year, collected $264,000 in the first three months of this year in taxes it would not have otherwise had, Mr. Peterson said, a rate that will increase as more states join and more companies agree.

Overall, these are terrific articles for those interested in what’s going on behind the scenes in the push for online sales tax legislation.

One small note of concern: Both articles suggest that the Main Street Fairness Act will be introduced either this week or next, but we are unsure of such predictions. We do know that quite a few legislators are working tirelessly on this bill. Given the gravity of this issue for states, retailers, and citizens, our representatives in DC are understandably proceeding with prudence and deliberate diligence to ensure broad bipartisan support from both chambers of Congress—not an easy task in today’s contentious and frequently divisive political climate.


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