Senate Passes Bill To Give States Ability To Collect Online Sales Tax

The United States Senate voted Monday evening to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, bipartisan legislation that would close what is known as the “Amazon loophole” by giving states the authority to collect sales taxes on online purchases even when internet retailers aren’t based within their borders. That loophole gives online sellers an advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers that have to collect sales taxes on most purchases.

The legislation passed 69-27.

The new rules would apply to all retailers with sales exceeding $1 million a year should it pass the House of Representatives, where it is expected to face opposition. Amazon, the largest online retailer, now supports it, but eBay and other online outlets are opposed. eBay sent 40 million emails to its users in April protesting the legislation.

“The contentious debate in the Senate shows that a lot more work needs to be done to get the Internet sales tax issue right, including ensuring that small businesses using the Internet are protected from new burdens that harm their ability to compete and grow,” Brian Bieron, eBay’s Senior Director of Global Public Policy, said in a statement. “eBay will continue to focus on bringing greater balance to the legislation by protecting small businesses with less than $10 million in sales or fewer than 50 employees.”

Despite those concerns, the closure of the loophole will have big benefits for states and taxpayers. States have lost billions of dollars to the loophole at a time when tight budgets have forced them to cut back on education and other programs. Low-income taxpayers, meanwhile, will benefit because closing the loophole will make state sales taxes slightly less regressive. However, raising the exemption, as eBay wants to do, would significantly reduce those benefits, which have been sought by governors, including Republicans, across the country in recent years.