Major online retailers are divided over a new legislation called The Marketplace Fairness Act that seeks to tackle the issue of charging sales tax for purchases made online. Right now states only require customers to pay a sales tax on purchases made online if the online retailer has a physical store address in the state. The problem for states that want to collect those revenues is that most online retailers like Amazon only have shipping or service centers in-state. Traditional brick and mortar retailers have long complained that online have an unfair advantage because of this fact.
The Marketplace Fairness Act hopes to change that. It was introduced Wednesday by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.). If the bill passes it would give state governments several ways to collect sales taxes from online purchases. The first method would require states to sign a multi-state legal agreement that would bring each of their sales tax codes into conformity. States would then have the power to compel online retailers to charge or remit a sales tax. States that don’t sign the legal agreement can still make online retailers collect sales tax on purchased goods if they adopt minimum standards to simplify their collection process. All sellers with annual sales that total less than $500,000 a year would be exempt from collecting individual state sales taxes.
While Amazon has come out in support of the Marketplace Fairness Act, companies such as eBay have come out against the new legislation. EBay feels that it has nothing to gain from the bill since the majority of its money comes from fees it charges other sellers for using its online auction site. Depending on the state, the individual selling the product(s) is usually responsible for collecting sales tax from customers. While eBay does have its own retail business, it doesn’t have the agreements with states to waive sale taxes like Amazon has managed to negotiate.
We'll continue to follow the progress of this bill and let you know if it passes or falls by the wayside.