Congressman says Internet sales tax bill is likely to come up this summer

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama told a Montgomery Chamber of Commerce group this morning that the Senate-passed Internet sales tax bill should come up in the U.S. House of Representatives later this summer.

The U.S. Senate on May 6 passed the Internet sales tax bill, properly named the Marketplace Fairness Act, 69-27. President Obama has said he will sign the bill if it passes Congress.

The Business Council of Alabama supports federal legislation authorizing states to streamline and simplify their sales and use tax systems in order to level the playing field for in-state and out-of-state retailers.

Rogers, R-Saks, represents the 3rd Congressional District. It includes all or parts of 13 counties in east-central Alabama from Cherokee to Russell to Montgomery counties.

The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow states to require remote sellers with more than $1 million in annual out-of-state sales to collect sales taxes for the states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rogers said a House committee wants to raise the amount to base amount to $10 million annually. He  suspects the figure is a negotiating tool and a compromise may allow taxation on sales of more than $5 million annually. Rogers said standardized sales tax collection and reporting software also is an issue.

Alabama like most if not all of the 45 states with sales taxes requires payment of a sales, or use, tax on goods purchased out of state and shipped to Alabama. Merchants with physical locations in Alabama are required to collect the tax. Consumers based on the honor system are supposed to pay the tax each year when filing their state tax return.

Rogers said it’s almost impossible to enforce, hence the need for the law that authorizes states to uphold their existing sales tax statutes.

The NCSL estimates that states lost a collective $23 billion in use tax in 2012, based on a University of Tennessee study. Alabama’s share of the $23 billion was $348 million, the study said.

Rogers touched on investigations by House Republicans of the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Rogers said Democrats and Republicans are concerned because while the IRS may have illegally targeted conservative groups in the past, politics changes and it could be liberals who are targeted tomorrow.

Rogers said he decries issues that cause people to lose confidence in their elected officials and government institutions. “The recent problems are getting in the way of (legislative) stuff,” he said.

He also addressed immigration reform, the farm bill – “that’s a big deal for Alabama” – cyber security and military base closings.

Immigration reform is about border security, he said. “Amnesty is not something we are concerned about now,” Rogers said.

He said cyber security is about preventing foreign nations from stealing business and government secrets. “It has nothing to do with emails to your wife,” Rogers said.

-Dana Beyerle