June 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

The DMA expresses concern at reported Internet sales tax agreement

The DMA says Congress’s reported agreement on Internet taxation fails to address the issue of the complexity of sales tax laws.


The Direct Marketing Association today reiterated its opposition to allowing states and localities to levy their sales tax rates on online retail purchases. “Congress would, in effect, abdicate its constitutional responsibilities to regulate interstate commerce by allowing state and local governments to determine how interstate commerce will be taxed," said H. Robert Wientzen, president & CEO of the DMA. "If the reported proposal is truly being considered, it would fail to solve the ongoing need for significant simplification of the nation`s 7,600 varying sales tax codes." Weintzen was reacting to press reports that Congress has reached an agreement on Internet sales tax.

In a statement, the DMA said: “The DMA continues to call on Congress to incorporate the following criteria, necessary to ensure a competitive and dynamic marketplace, into any sales tax simplification legislation:
-- One tax rate per state for all commerce, both remote and over-the-counter sales
-- Uniform definitions of taxable items
-- A collection allowance for all retailers
-- One audit form recognized by all states
-- Reaffirm a "physical presence" requirement for business activity tax nexus
-- One location to which to remit tax payments
-- Full and open congressional review prior to enactment of the legislation
-- Affirmative congressional approval that states have met all simplification criteria


"The proposal, if accurately portrayed, allows the states to come up with their own plan of simplification, which will amount to little or no simplification," said Frank G. Julian, operating vice president and tax counsel, Federated Department Stores, Inc. and chairman of The DMA`s Use Tax Steering Committee. "This is the job of Congress, as mandated by the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court. This proposal described in the media fails to make the tough decisions; instead, it leaves the decisions to the very states that created the labyrinth system we have today."

The reported agreement would provide no congressional guidance at all as to how the states should simplify the nation`s antiquated, Depression-era tax system.

"If the media reports are correct, this proposed agreement does not move forward through reasonable compromise, but leaps backward. The long-time consensus -- that Congress must provide firm simplification criteria to the states -- was inexplicably jettisoned," Wientzen said. "This proposal makes out-of-state vendors the deputized tax collectors for every state, county, town, and even every mosquito district in the country."



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