March 19, 2003, 12:00 AM

Online sales tax amnesty is attracting more retailers, tax official says

A steady stream of attorneys representing retailers who want to get in on the back-tax amnesty that Wal-Mart, Target and other retailers agreed to in February is in contact with the Multi-State Tax Commission.


Retailers follow Wal-Mart’s lead in a lot of areas--and now they’re following in the collection of online sales tax. Dan Bucks, executive director of the Multi-State Tax Commission, tells that his office has been dealing with a steady stream of attorneys representing retailers who want to get in on the back-tax amnesty that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and other retailers agreed to in February. "There`s significant interest being expressed by additional companies," he says.

Wal-Mart, Target and other merchants have agreed to voluntarily begin collecting sales tax for online sales, regardless of whether they maintain a physical presence in a customer`s state in return for 37 states and the District of Columbia agreeing to amnesty for uncollected back sales taxes.

Although he was unable to name the retail companies inquiring about the amnesty offer, Bucks says the interest has been broad enough to confirm the effectiveness of the states` diplomatic overture to elicit cooperation in collecting sales tax. "Certainly the voluntary system is attracting more interest earlier than was generally anticipated," he says.

He adds, however, that voluntary participation by retailers in collecting sales tax is not expected to be universal, requiring states to continue seeking a federal mandate for collecting sales tax for online sales. More than 30 states are participating in the Streamlined Sales Tax Project as part of an effort to simplify the collection of tax across multiple states. Once the project is completed, the participating states will seek federal legislation authorizing them to mandate tax collection.


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