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Small Business Uneasy About Tax Collection Bills

The effort to change the law intensified as the growth of the Internet increased and companies' out-of-state sales volume swelled. Many sellers felt protected by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states could not force out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax. But the court, in effect, invited Congress to create a law that would give the states the authority to require that taxes be collected.

States have a lot of incentive to go after the revenue. The combined budgets of all the states had deficits of more than $100 billion a year from 2009 through 2012, primarily because of the drop in tax receipts during and after the recession, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an organization that studies tax issues.

THREE BILLS INTRODUCED

Three separate bills were introduced in the last Congress that would authorize the states to require remote sellers to collect taxes. In the Senate, the Marketplace Fairness Act had bipartisan support but did not come to a vote. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of the bill's sponsors, has told The Associated Press the bill was tabled because of concerns by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., about the burdens tax collection would place on companies in his state, where there is no sales tax.

But the burden small business owners fear may not be as bad as they think. The government would likely require that states make the process easier for small companies. And the smallest of these businesses are expected to be exempt. The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act exempts businesses that have $500,000 or less in sales from remote states. But Durbin says that number is open to negotiation.

"That's not set in stone," Durbin says. "I want to come up with a number that spares anyone from concern."

He also says that the tax computation software will have to be user friendly.

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