Mike Johanns on Technology
Secretary of Agriculture; previously Republican NE Governor
Opponent's Argument for voting No (Cnet.com): Online retailers are objecting to S.743, saying it's unreasonable to expect small businesses to comply with the detailed--and sometimes conflicting--regulations of nearly 10,000 government tax collectors. S.743 caps years of lobbying by the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represent big box stores. President Obama also supports the bill.
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes: Sen. COLLINS. This bill rectifies a fundamental unfairness in our current system. Right now, Main Street businesses have to collect sales taxes on every transaction, but outbecause -of-state Internet sellers don't have to charge this tax, they enjoy a price advantage over the mom-and-pop businesses. This bill would allow States to collect sales taxes on Internet sales, thereby leveling the playing field with Main Street businesses. This bill does not authorize any new or higher tax, nor does it impose an Internet tax. It simply helps ensure that taxes already owed are paid.
Opponent's Argument for voting No: Sen. WYDEN: This bill takes a function that is now vested in government--State tax collection--and outsources that function to small online retailers. The proponents say it is not going to be hard for small businesses to handle this--via a lot of new computer software and the like. It is, in fact, not so simple. There are more than 5,000 taxing jurisdictions in our country. Some of them give very different treatment for products and services that are almost identical.
The nation’s governors have a strong and unified message to Congress: deal fairly with Main Street retailers, consumers, and local governments. In a letter sent to all members of Congress late Friday, 44 governors said:
If you care about a level playing field for Main Street retail businesses and local control of states, local governments, and schools, extend the moratorium on taxing Internet access ONLY with authorization for the states to streamline and simplify the existing sales tax system. To do otherwise perpetuates a fundamental inequity and ignores a growing problem.The current moratorium on Internet access taxes, like those consumers pay to Internet service providers, and multiple and discriminatory taxes is scheduled to expire in October. The moratorium does not apply to sales taxes.
Currently, sales and use taxes are owed on all online transactions, but states are prohibited from requiring “remote sellers” to collect and remit those levies. A 1992 US Supreme Court decision said states can only require sellers that have a physical presence in the same state as the consumer to collect so-called use taxes. In instances when a seller does not have a physical presence, consumers are required to calculate and remit the taxes owed to their home states at the end of the year. The problem is most people are unaware that they’re supposed to pay, and states lack an effective enforcement mechanism. Online and catalog sellers, thereby, have a significant price advantage over Main Street businesses that must collect a sales tax on all transactions.
The loophole creates serious budget problems for schools, states, and local governments. A study estimated that states could lose as much as $14 billion by 2004 if they are unable to collect existing taxes on Web-based sales. Nearly half of state revenues come from sales taxes.
A bill to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from repromulgating the fairness doctrine. Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), notwithstanding any other provision of any Act, from having the authority to require broadcasters to present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance, commonly referred to as the Fairness Doctrine.
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