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April 7, 2013

Federal lawmakers push for online sales tax


“The exponential growth of electronic commerce (more than 10 percent annually) has resulted in the erosion of states’ sales tax bases and an increased dependence on other sources of revenue,” Quinn wrote.

Durbin’s effort matches a push in the Republican-led House, where legislation also has bipartisan support but faces a potentially tough road even with a GOP lead sponsor, Congressman Steve Womack of Arkansas.

“We’re very hopeful, especially given the Senate’s overwhelming support, that the House will take this on” this year, said Claire Burghoff, Womack’s spokeswoman.

The timing of federal action, if there is any, would be a major factor in determining how much and how quickly states and cities could reap the benefits.

Durbin faces strong opposition from conservatives such as Grover Norquist and businesses such as eBay that say the proposed legislation could hurt small businesses.

“Our view is that the current bill would not protect many small businesses, and that it needs to be improved before Congress takes any final action,” said Brian Bieron, eBay’s chief spokesman on the matter. The threshold of $1 million in annual sales outlined in the bill is too low, Bieron said, arguing that a better way to gauge a business’ size is how many employees it has.

He suggested setting 50 employees as the level between small and big businesses or using a combination of the employee numbers and a dollar threshold.

“Our main point is that it is good public policy to encourage small business to grow into big businesses before new tax burdens are put on them,” Bieron said.

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