On February 13, the bipartisan Senate and House sponsors of “The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013” (S. 336 and HR 684) held a press conference in the Capitol in conjunction with the introduction of their bill, which is aimed at leveling the playing field between online-only sellers and brick and mortar retailers. Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), authors of the Senate bill in the previous Congress, were joined this time by freshman Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) as an original cosponsor. Heitkamp is the former Tax Commissioner for North Dakota, who nearly 20 years ago filed an action in state court to force the Quill Corporation – an out-of-state mail-order office equipment retailer – to charge a North Dakota use tax on Quill merchandise to be used within the state. Eventually the Quill case reached the U.S. Supreme Court where the high court ruled that the problem “is not only one that Congress may be better qualified to resolve, but also one that Congress has the ultimate power to resolve.”

California has passed its own version of this policy and is currently collecting millions of dollars of these previously uncollected sales taxes for items purchased in our state.  However, a federal solution that treats all states in the same manner is still sorely needed in order to maximize collection of sales taxes owed to the states and to provide market stability across the nation.

Again, at the federal level, “The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013” would require states to provide a minimum level of simplification, including the simplification called for by the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. Some of the simplification requirements for a state include providing a single point of remittance, a more uniform sales and use tax base and free software for remote sellers that assists in calculating and filing sales and use taxes. Also included is a generous small seller exemption to businesses with $1 million in total remote sales per year. A group of 18 Senators and 35 Representatives have joined as sponsors in the reintroduction. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) particularly mentioned the strength of the Marketplace Fairness Coalition, a business and retail group ICSC is leading. For more information on this issue, please visit www.21stcenturyretail.org.



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