| WASHINGTON, April 17
WASHINGTON, April 17 U.S. senators could vote as
early as next week on legislation that would give states the
authority to collect sales taxes from online purchases,
Democratic Senate aides said on Wednesday, a significant step
forward after years of false starts.
Though the legal change provided by the bill has enjoyed
bipartisan support for years, previous versions of this
legislation have languished in Congress, facing opposition from
some online retail companies and lawmakers from both parties.
Momentum has been building in the Senate since 75 lawmakers
showed their overwhelming support with a symbolic vote last
Backers say that vote should assuage House Republicans, some
of whom believe the law would amount to a tax hike.
"We don't think it is a tax increase. We think it is a
collection issue," said David French, chief lobbyist for the
National Retail Federation, which represents many traditional
"brick-and-mortar" stores like Walmart Stores Inc that
have long sought this legislation.
States can only tax Internet sales made by companies with a
physical presence within their borders. In practice, that means
online retailers such as Amazon.com Inc charge sales
tax in some states and not in others.
Tension among Democrats has prevented a vote from coming to
the Senate floor. The second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick
Durbin, is pushing the bill, while Senate Finance Committee
Chairman Max Baucus has resisted it.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of
Representatives, but it faces opposition from key lawmakers in
Amazon on Wednesday reiterated its support for the
legislation. Other online retailers like eBay Inc
oppose the bill.
Jonathan Johnson, an executive at Overstock.com,
said he was in Washington on Wednesday lobbying House and Senate
lawmakers to vote against the legislation.
State and local governments support the legislation because
it would allow them to tap uncollected revenue. Fitch Ratings
estimates that states currently lose $11 billion in tax revenues
without the online levy.