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Senate To Vote On Internet Sales Tax (For Real This Time) 326 326

New submitter JoeyRox writes "On 3/22 the Senate approved a non-binding proposal to allow states to tax online sales to residents outside their state. That vote was a trial balloon to gauge the support for the Marketplace Fairness Act. This week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a cloture to allow the law to be voted on for real this time. The vote may occur as soon as tomorrow. eBay is attempting to rally Americans against the bill via a massive email campaign."
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Senate To Vote On Internet Sales Tax (For Real This Time)

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  • by naroom (1560139) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:16PM (#43510337)
    But very practical, and should have happened sooner. The overall efficiency of our society will increase if people buy more things at local stores. Less gas wasted on shipping, more money staying in its own communities.
  • by Warhawke (1312723) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:35PM (#43510495)

    Um, what?

    If it's "unconstitutional as heck," then no, no it absolutely should not have happened sooner. You don't just get to flagrantly violate the Constitution -- you know, the document that enumerates states' and citizens' rights -- because it somehow promotes local tribalism. Go amend the Constitution if you want to make something unconstitutional suddenly constitutional. Otherwise, you just basically said it's a good idea to flagrantly violate the fundamental law that has serves as the core of the United States because it affirms your limited idea of what constitutes economic efficiency.

    If a state's sales tax is so high that it is more economically efficient to ship the product from a different state at least 48 hours transit time away than to buy from within the state, it's a pretty clear indication that the tax is too high, or the distribution models within the state are lacking. By your logic, we should violate the GATT 1994 and place punitive tariffs on incoming products from China because they rob hardworking Americans U.S. jobs. Because clearly that's a more logical and economically friendly policy than reducing the number of domestic legislative restrictions that sent those jobs overseas in the first place.

  • by WhitePanther5000 (766529) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:36PM (#43510499)

    But very practical, and should have happened sooner. The overall efficiency of our society will increase if people buy more things at local stores. Less gas wasted on shipping, more money staying in its own communities.

    Less gas wasted on shipping? Considering that the vast majority of consumer goods are not produced locally, how do they get to the local stores?

  • by paiute (550198) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:38PM (#43510513)
    It must be true, because I saw it bolded on the Internet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:38PM (#43510517)

    How in the hell is income tax unconstitutional when Amendment XVI of the constitution specifically authorizes Congress to levy it?

  • by paiute (550198) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:40PM (#43510541)

    treating it as the absolute unchanging principal that defines the United States.

    Except for the fact that it is, you are otherwise correct.

  • by lord_mike (567148) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:43PM (#43510561)

    I think the commerce clause is pretty clear that the constitution authorizes the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. Considering that this bill is specifically targeted towards goods ordered and shipped from out of state, it clearly falls under the purview of the commerce clause. It's not even a taxing bill, since it merely specifies that retailers such as amazon must conform to state and local laws in regards to sale. What is exactly "unconstitutional" about this idea?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:43PM (#43510569)

    But very practical, and should have happened sooner. The overall efficiency of our society will increase if people buy more things at local stores. Less gas wasted on shipping, more money staying in its own communities.

    Your post reeks of "protectionism" and "buy local" garbage.

    Do you really want a laptop or a smartphone built by the guy next door? Do you want clothes that cost 10x as much because this year's local cotton crop got destroyed by boll weevils? Do you want to give up eating oranges, bananas, grapes, pineapples because they don't grow natively in your climate?

    Marketplace "fairness" is just a way to prop up the middle-men who contribute nothing to the marketplace except jacking up the price. Now they are out of work because their only skill was being able to look you dead in the eye and give you a firm handshake while knowing they were ripping you off. Paying hundreds of dollars for baseball cards, using travel agencies, getting a $60k job with only a high school education, all of that is dead and we are all better for it. Internet transparency helped make that happen, and now the leeches want to make it "fair" to contribute nothing and rip you off.

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Skreems (598317) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:47PM (#43510589) Homepage
    No, but the people buying the products are.
  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @02:00PM (#43510673)

    But very practical, and should have happened sooner. The overall efficiency of our society will increase if people buy more things at local stores. Less gas wasted on shipping, more money staying in its own communities.

    Wrong on every count.

    While people do buy things online out of convenience, that is only one small part of the story. While I would really like to support local business, I can't because of one simple fact -- local stores rarely have what I want. And so I buy a lot of stuff online. If I need something like computer components, the only "local stores" are a Best Buy which only carries an extremely limited range of products at inflated prices and a MicroCenter 50 miles away. Where's the efficiency in that?

    If "local stores" had everything that people wanted, then online business couldn't exist. But they don't. And it's not even possible. You can't have gigantic stores that stock millions of items in every city and every small town. That would be ridiculous, horrendously inefficient and unworkable, not to mention unprofitable. But large online businesses, like Amazon, etc. can have a few big warehouses around the country that stock millions of items. This gives consumers greater choices and the ability to buy what they want rather than be limited to whatever is sitting on a shelf in a "local store".

    Buying from large centrally located business, like Amazon, Ebay, Newegg, etc is in fact more efficient than 200 million people driving all over the place, going from store to store trying to find what they want.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 21, 2013 @02:02PM (#43510687)

    Also, how do the consumers get to the store?

  • by green1 (322787) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @02:14PM (#43510737)

    Considering that taxes officially apply even to barter transactions (not that anyone ever declares them), and especially considering that there was another recent article on here talking about how bitcoin is now subject to many of the same regulations as normal currency (like reporting transactions over a set dollar threshold) then yes. this does.

    Of course some currencies and transactions are easier to hide than others, but that doesn't make it legal, only likely.

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @03:27PM (#43511135) Homepage

    All the software and systems for this are already in place for 24 states. [streamlinedsalestax.org] There are services which will do a sales tax calculation for you [taxcloud.net], or you can download all the data files The required inputs are ZIP code (9 digit ZIP code in a few cases where a ZIP code crosses a tax boundary), product class, and date (for "sales tax holidays"). It's complex because the interstate consortium that does this has to accommodate all the vagaries of state sales tax law in each state.

    The idea is that small businesses sign up with a service provider, and send them one check for all state taxes plus an XML file of the transactions. Big businesses will probably run their own software. Expect to see this as a standard component of most shopping cart programs.

    What the Federal law is about is getting all the states on board for this, and applying it nationally. There's even a huge loophole - "Online sellers with less than $1,000,000 in remote sales annually will be exempt from collection requirements. Remote sales are sales to customers in states where the seller does not already have a physical presence." eBay lobbied for that, yet they're still whining about the law.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @03:56PM (#43511283)

    That's irrelevant. Here's an analogy for you:

    John lives in New Jersey, but only a few miles away from the Pennsylvania state line. The nearest town from him is 20 miles away, but just 3 miles away from him is Stroudsburg, PA, a decently-sized town. Because of proximity, naturally John regularly drives over the border to this town to do all his grocery shopping and other shopping. Which state does John pay his sales tax to? Simple: it all goes to Pennsylvania, not New Jersey which he resides in. Sales tax is levied at the merchant's location, not the customer's.

    Here's another similar analogy: it's 1975, and the internet doesn't exist. John wants to buy a quadrophonic stereo system, and he wants a particular model. No one in his state has the model he wants, however he calls around a lot (costing him a pretty penny in long-distance charges), and finds one at a specialty retailer in Boston, several states away. He doesn't want to trust any private shippers or the USPS with delivering this expensive piece of delicate equipment, so he drives 5 hours to Boston to pick it up in person. At the shop there, he has to pay sales tax. Does the retailer charge him based on his home address? Of course not; he has to pay the exact same sales tax that any local Bostonite would, and that tax money goes to Massachusetts and Boston (assuming Boston has a separate municipal sales tax as many cities do). John's home state of New Jersey doesn't get a cent.

    So will someone please explain why these sales tax initiatives require the retailer to charge tax based on the customer's location, rather than the retailer's location? If I set up a shop in Kansas (with no mail orders or internet orders), all my customers, no matter how far they drive to visit me, will have to pay sales tax to the state of Kansas. It doesn't matter if they have an Oregon driver's license and try to argue they don't owe tax because OR has no sales taxes. If you're in KS and buy something, yo pay KS sales tax. So why should it be an different for internet sales? It'd surely make calculations a lot easier for any merchants, big or small, and be a boon to their localities and states. Of course, one might argue that a bunch of merchants might move their operations to tax-free jurisdictions like OR, but that's just too bad for high-tax states, and besides, many small business people don't have the capital to just pack up and move cross-country based on this one factor, or they might not be willing to leave all their family and friends just because of that. And secondly, for large corporations with operations in many states, this would complicate things and would certainly require special legislation so they can't just stick a small office in a tax-free state to avoid charging sales tax.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @04:15PM (#43511389)

    I'm not a lawyer, but the idea of forcing people to obey laws in jurisdictions other than where they're located seems wrong to me. How on earth is anyone supposed to figure out what the law is in tens of thousands of different jurisdictions across the country? It's impossible.

    If they want to fix the sales tax "loophole", at the federal level, it's easy: pass a law requiring e-merchants to collect sales tax based on the merchant's physical location. That's already the way it is if you buy stuff in person: you dont pay sales tax based on your home address, you pay based on where the store is. Why should e-commerce be any different? Moreover, if you have some dispute with the tax authorities, it'd only be the authorities in your own state and locality, not some authorities 2500 miles away in some state and small town you've never heard of or visited before, and you'd go to your local courthouse to resolve the dispute, instead of being required to fly across the country to do so.

  • by RKBA (622932) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @05:38PM (#43511821)
    Have none of our legistraitors ever read the United States Constitution?

    CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
    Article. I, Section. 9: "No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State."
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday April 22, 2013 @02:02AM (#43513449)

    Having read several of your posts, you have no right to tell anyone they are a nutjob or that they need to read the constitution until you look in the mirror and say it several times.

  • Screw this. Hard. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Monday April 22, 2013 @10:35AM (#43515339)

    Everyone seems to be missing a key issue here. Everyone is constantly complaining about the high costs of everything. Gasoline? Too expensive. Food? Too expensive. Healthcare? Too expensive. Satellite TV? Too expensive. And on, and on, and on. Why the hell isn't government too expensive? If I have to make do with less, then so does the government.

    Most people have never run a business selling something and therefore have no clue how much time it takes to deal with sales taxes. In most states, even if you have no sales in any given month, you still have to file the paperwork. Proponents of this tax keep saying that it will "level the playing field for brick&mortar stores". Bzzzt. Wrong. A mom & pop brick & mortar store only sells locally therefore they don't have to deal with the out-of-state sales taxes. That effectively gives them an advantage rather than leveling the playing field. Furthermore, big box stores such as Wal-mart don't give a damn because they already have an army of accountants to deal with the paperwork.

    And then who in each local state government is going to process the paperwork suddenly coming in from 49 other states? Oh, well, gee whiz, we don't have enough bureaucrats to deal with it so we'll have to hire more...and pay them...and give them benefits...and a pension...all at taxpayer expense. But wait, this tax was supposed to close budget shortfalls. Oops. Now you've compounded them.

    And ultimately, this will lead to only one thing: inflation. Because nobody is going to take the extra costs up the a$$. They are going to pass it on to the consumer. A VAT tax won't solve this either. In fact it will make it worse because invariably there are sticky fingers all along the government food chain.

Gosh that takes me back... or is it forward? That's the trouble with time travel, you never can tell." -- Doctor Who, "Androids of Tara"

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