WASHINGTON — A handful of senators from states without sales taxes are blocking a bill that would tax Internet purchases.
They don’t have enough support to kill the bill, but they can delay a final vote until today — or even this weekend.
The bill would empower states to require online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes for purchases made over the Internet. Under the bill, the sales taxes would be sent to the states where a shopper lives.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is leading the fight against the bill. Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire and Delaware have no sales taxes, though the two senators from Delaware support the bill.
“It’s coercive. It requires a number of states to collect the taxes of other states thousands of miles away against their will,” Wyden said in an interview. “It’s discrimination because this forces some people online to carry out responsibilities that brick-and-mortar retailers do not have to do.”
Wyden said the bill also gives an advantage to foreign retailers, which would not be covered.
The bill has already survived two procedural votes this week, getting 74 votes in favor each time.
If senators can’t reach an agreement to vote earlier, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate will vote this morning to end the debate.
The Senate is scheduled to go on vacation next week, and Reid vowed to pass the bill before senators leave town.
“One way or another, we will finish work on this measure before we leave,” Reid said.
Wyden said he doesn’t want to inconvenience senators eager to go home. But, he added, “I don’t want to have our constituents rolled over in the process.”
Under current law, states can only require stores to collect sales taxes if the store has a physical presence in the state. Many online sales are essentially tax-free, giving Internet retailers an advantage over brick-and-mortar stores.
Supporters say the bill is about fairness for local businesses that already collect sales taxes, and lost revenue for states.
Opponents say the bill would impose complicated regulations on retailers and doesn’t have enough protections for small businesses.