One of the chief Senate backers of legislation that would require online retailers to collect sales taxes from their out-of-state customers said Tuesday that he is still hopeful for action this year on his measure.
"I haven't ruled it out. There's still activity on it," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Tech Daily Dose. Durbin has authored legislation with Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that would close a loophole left by a 1992 Supreme Court decision.
In that decision, the high court ruled that states cannot require retailers to collect sales taxes from customers in states where those firms have no store or other physical presence. Since then, states and some brick-and-mortar retailers have complained that the ruling is being exploited by online retailers and is costing states billions in uncollected sales tax revenues each year. The Enzi-Durbin bill would allow states that meet certain tax-simplification standards to require online retailers to collect sales taxes from their out-of-state customers.
Durbin noted that former Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Miss., is lobbying on the issue for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents big box stores with brick-and-click operations such as Target and Wal-Mart. RILA along with other retail groups such as the National Retail Federation, Consumer Electronics Association and the International Council of Shopping Centers are backing the Enzi-Durbin bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has indicated that the bill needs more Republican support before he'll bring it to the Senate floor, Durbin said. He cited some progress in attracting GOP support, which will be key to overcoming a likely Republican filibuster. Durbin said he would still like to have the backing of at least a dozen Republicans. So far, only four Republicans in addition to Enzi have signed on as co-sponsors of the Enzi-Durbin bill.
The bill, however, does have the backing of many GOP governors, who have voiced concern about losses in sales tax revenues given the growth in e-commerce.