With advocates for e-tax fairness preparing to give legislation a final push during the lame-duck session of Congress, which began this week, the ABA and other industry groups have crafted a letter, delivered to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) on Wednesday, that has been signed by 200 organizations and 400 companies, including bookstores such as New Orleans's Octavia Books and Texas's Living Room Bookstore.
The letter is signed by, among others, Barnes & Noble, Amazon (which is pressing for national legislation on the issue, as opposed to state-by-state legislation) and the National Retail Federation; it urges Congress to take action after two decades, and more than 30 Congressional hearings, debating the issue.
"Locally-based retailers and wholesaler-distributors and their employees across the the country expect Congress to make 2014 the last year in which Main Street businesses are burdened with a government-sanctioned price advantage, compared to their online competitors," they wrote. "The time to level the playing field has come."
This week the National Retail Federation also launched a campaign for e-tax fairness. The group is prepared to spend upwards of six figures, according to spokesperson Stephen Schatz, on advertising as well as grassroots advocacy for passage of an e-tax fairness bill. “For retailers, we are all in making sure that this is considered for the lame-duck session,” he said.
Last year the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act by a wide margin. It would force online retailers to collect sales tax if they have $1 million or more in gross sales annually. Part of the reason for the push is that if Congress fails to act during the lame-duck session, the act will die
Passage is far from certain given a statement on Monday from Kevin Smith, spokesperson for Speaker Boehner: “The speaker has made clear in the past he has significant concerns about the bill, and it won’t move forward this year. The Judiciary Committee continues to examine the measure and the broader issue. In the meantime, the House and Senate should work together to extend the moratorium on Internet taxation without further delay.”
On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), made passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act a priority for post-election period. “That is long, long overdue,” Reid said of the online sales tax bill.