States Move Forward on Internet Sales Tax

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Tax officials, state lawmakers and industry representatives agreed Thursday to establish an 18-state network for collecting taxes on Internet sales, a compact they hope will encourage online retailers and Congress to endorse a mandatory national program.

Meeting in Chicago under the auspices of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, the officials agreed that 11 states will oversee the project and outlined incentives to encourage retailers to participate. Forty states have been negotiating since 2000 to create a framework for collecting sales taxes on all remote transactions, whether through regular mail or online.

"The vote is a culmination of over five years of hard work by states, local governments and businesses interested in seeing the complexity in sales tax [reduced]," said Stephen Kranz, tax counsel for the Council on State Taxation, an industry trade association.

Starting Oct. 1, software vendors contracted by the Streamlined Sales Tax Project will begin providing free tax collection and remittance software and services to online merchants who voluntarily agree to collect taxes on all online sales on behalf of the 18 participating states.

Under the states' plan, Internet retailers that agree to collect and remit taxes will do so for online sales originating in any of 11 states that have amended their state laws to fully comply with standards developed by the sales tax project. In the other seven states, the Internet sales tax collection would be optional until their tax codes are brought into full compliance. In both cases, any taxes the retailer collected would be based on the rates in effect where the buyer lives, and the retailers would be compensated for the cost of collecting and remitting that revenue to the states.

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