Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has released a detailed proposal for international corporate tax reform, which we summarized earlier this week. While there are some improvements to current law, the proposal...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- Senate Considers Allowing State Taxation of Online Sales
Senate Considers Allowing State Taxation of Online Sales
This afternoon, we're submitting written testimony to a U.S. Senate hearing on state sales taxation of online purchases (PDF). It's an issue we've been active on for quite some time, explaining to policymakers and reporters all the moving parts and sometimes-confusing terms (SSTP, "Amazon" taxes, nexus, sourcing, and so forth). In fact, I testified on the same topic to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee last week.
Put simply, states have never been allowed to impose their sales tax on out-of-state companies because their state tax systems have always stopped at their borders. The growth of interstate commerce, particularly the recent growth of internet commerce, has created pressure on this status quo. Brick-and-mortar retailers rightfully point out a neutrality problem: they collect tax on their sales, while their online competitors often do not.
But the other extreme -- letting states foist their 9,600 sales tax jurisdictions, often with different rates and bases and definitions and categories and audits and rules -- on anyone in the world who sells into the state, would gravely threaten the national economy.
Therefore, our work on this subject in general, and today's testimony in particular, seeks to be constructive in finding a workable solution. We've emphasized that any congressional action to expand state tax authority must come with concrete, meaningful, enforceable sales tax simplification. While some of the bills before Congress do some simplification, it's not yet at the level required to protect interstate commerce from the dangers of aggressive state tax overreaching.
Below is our comparison of the three main bills currently before Congress. And here's a link to our testimony. (You can also download it as a PDF.) This is an issue that divides Democrats from Democrats, Republicans from Republicans, and businesses from other businesses. (That reminds me, I must give kudos to some of the legislators at last week's House hearing who offered thoughtful and constructive comments on the issue, including Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Elton Gallegy (R-CA), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Jared Polis (D-CO).) I'm hopeful a good solution for taxpayers will come out of it, and we're engaged to make sure that nothing less happens.
Buy this blogger a cup of coffee!
Join the Tax Foundation's fight for sound tax policy Go
About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official weblog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.