The pro-sales tax organizations, however, interpret the 1992 US Supreme Court decision (Quill v. North Dakota) as still unsettled. As part of the ruling, the court said, “Congress is now free to decide whether, when, and to what extent the States may burden interstate mail-order concerns with a duty to collect use taxes.”
Since that ruling no marketplace fairness legislation has passed Congress despite the best efforts of some powerful lobbying groups allied under the umbrella of the Marketplace Fairness Coalition to change the law. Among the supporters are the AFL-CIO, the National Governors Association, the National Retail Federation, and businesses such as Wal-Mart and even Amazon.com, which is setting up distribution centers in states across the country.
But they are pushing against some conservative Republicans. Last month, 16 free-market organizations, including Grover Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform, signed a letter opposing the legislation. In addition, the legislation is opposed by the NetChoice coalition, which includes companies such as AOL.com, eBay, Facebook and News Corp.
Last month, the conservative Heritage Foundation said the proposed bill would turn every out-of-state retailer into a sales tax collector for nearly 10,000 separate state, local, and municipal tax jurisdictions, and it called the proposed legislation “a dangerous extension of state power into other states.”
The Heritage argument resonates with a key Republican lawmaker, Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who is also the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over interstate commerce.
In a statement to the Monitor on Tuesday, he said, “There is also concern that despite disclaimers, the bill could open the door for states to tax or even regulate beyond their borders.”
Congressman Goodlatte says he can see both sides of the argument. “Brick and mortar retailers must compete with Internet companies that do not have the same sales tax collection responsibilities,” he said in his statement. “I understand the concerns of retailers on this issue.”
However, he worried the complexity of state sales taxes could be a burden.