U.S. Senate sets a date to vote on an online sales tax bill

The Senate will vote May 6 on the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Paul Demery

After lengthy debate on the bill and more than 10 proposed amendments, the U.S. Senate agreed today to vote May 6 on the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would broadly expand the number of Internet and catalog retailers required to collect sales tax.

The May 6 vote, coming on the Senate’s first day after next week’s recess, will need only a majority vote, or 51 if all 100 senators vote, says a spokeswoman for Senator Dick Durbin (D, IL), one of the bill’s sponsors.

Senators today voted 63-30 to end debate on the bill and to include only one amendment, which Durbin and co-sponsor Mike Enzi (R, WY) put forth. Their amendment basically inserts a few technical changes into the bill to ensure that it has correct legal language, Durbin’s office says. By voting to end debate on the bill, the Senate removed the possibility of a fillibuster to block consideration of the measure, which would have required at least 60 votes to end.

If enacted into law, the Marketplace Fairness Act would overturn existing federal law by allowing states to require Internet and catalog retailers to collect sales tax in states where they have no physical presence, such as stores or distribution centers. The bill applies to retailers with $1 million or more in remote online sales, or sales in states where they have no physical presence.

With the bill only requiring a majority vote to pass, its chance of winning approval in the Senate appears excellent, because three-quarters of the Senate has already expressed support for the bill, says a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, a trade group that represents retail chains. The NRF, along with No. 1 online retailer Amazon.com Inc., is a big supporter of the legislation. The Senate voted 75-24 last month to support the bill in a non-binding resolution, and voted 74-20 on Monday to proceed with debate this week. The Obama Administration also came out in support of the bill on Monday.

But opponents of the bill, including NetChoice, which represents eBay Inc., Overstock.com Inc. and other web retailers, say the legislation may face a tougher road in the House of Representatives. Overstock is No. 27 and Amazon.com is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500. (more on the Top 500


Amazon.com, Marketplace Fairness Act, NetChoice, online sales tax, Overstock.com, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Senate