Sen. Durbin backs national standard on Internet taxes

Sen. Durbin backs national standard on Internet taxes

September 13th, 2011 by Andy Sher in News

Katherine Braun sorts packages toward the right shipping area at an Amazon.com fulfillment center in Goodyear, Ariz., in this Associated Press file photo. Some Tennessee lawmakers object to Amazon not paying sales taxes on products that will be shipped from its Hamilton and Bradley fulfillment centers.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

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NASHVILLE - The U.S. Senate's No. 2 leader came to the state's capital Monday where he promoted his legislation creating a "national standard" on Internet sales-tax collections that would affect Tennessee -- a state where officials are debating a tax-collection deal cut with Amazon.com Inc.

U.S. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., praised the deal Amazon struck last week with California over sales tax collections. But he said action at the federal level remains the best solution and not state-by-state fights in places like Tennessee.

"It [a federal solution] is needed because I don't think any company, including Amazon, should have to fight this war on 50 fronts," he said. "Beyond each state, they [Internet retailers] have to worry about local sales taxes that may be imposed as well."

Last week, Amazon and California lawmakers reached an agreement that the company would begin collecting sales taxes after a year.

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam is trying to persuade Amazon to change its current agreement with the state. Under a deal struck by prior Gov. Phil Bredesen, Amazon is locating two distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties in exchange for the company's not having to collect sales taxes on items sold to Tennesseans.

The Tennessee agreement has come under fire from some GOP lawmakers and traditional "brick and mortar retailers" ranging from mom-and-pop stores to Wal-Mart and Best Buy. Haslam said he hopes to get Amazon to agree to begin collecting the sales taxes in Tennessee after a period of time.

Durbin was in Nashville where he held a news conference with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., about Durbin's Main Street Fairness Act on the Internet sales tax issue, as well as new laws passed by Tennessee and other states that require government-issued photo identification to vote.

"This is not a new tax," Cooper told reporters, noting consumers are supposed to be paying the taxes already. "This is a collection of an existing tax, and everybody should be for that."

Durbin said his Main Street Fairness Act is an effort "to establish a national standard. And I think that's why Amazon has signed on. They want to have a consistent rule, state by state, that they can apply."

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