February 13, 2013, 4:25 PM

A new e-retail sales tax bill is due

A bipartisan group will introduce a new Marketplace Fairness Act on Thursday.

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Following failed attempts to move on federal legislation last year that would have led to more sales tax collection by Internet retailers, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives will introduce a bill tomorrow that its proponents say was designed to overcome problems with prior bills, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, “resolves the differences between bills introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives last Congress that would allow brick-and-mortar retailers to compete more effectively against out-of-state Internet sellers,” the group said in a statement today and distributed by Durbin and other elected officials.

The new bill, which will be officially announced Thursday at the U.S. Capitol, takes into consideration matters addressed in three bills introduced in 2011 but which failed to come to a vote as part of the 112th Congress, which ended Jan. 3. All of those bills were designed to give states the authority to require Internet and catalog retailers to collect sales tax whether or not the retailers maintained an in-state physical presence like stores or distribution centers. In effect, the bills were written to override existing federal law, which says states can only mandate sales tax collection by retailers with an in-state physical presence, or nexus in legal terms.

But each bill took a different approach. The Main Street Fairness Act of 2011 said states would have to abide by the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, or SST, under which a group of some 25 states have coordinated sales collection rules to make it easier for merchants to collect sales tax and remit it to states. The Marketplace Equity Act of 2011 would have required a less stringent system of streamlining tax rules, and the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2011 tried to fill a middle ground.

The new Marketplace Fairness Act will follow its predecessor bill in finding a middle ground in state requirements, but one major difference is that most if not all of the sponsors of the three prior bills are supporting the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, the bipartisan group says. In addition to Durbin, they include: Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Representatives John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Steve Womack (R-AR) and Jackie Speier (D-CA). The prior Marketplace Fairness Act provided for a small-retailer exemption at $500,000 in annual remote sales, or sales to customers in states where a retailer has no physical presence, though other proposed legislation had called for an exemption threshold of $1 million. Officials are expected to announce on Thursday the small-retailer exemption in the new legislation.

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