April 29th, 2009

Taxing Problems for E-Merchants

I wrote a story for AuctionBytes that described a bill called the Main Street Fairness Act, which will be introduced in Congress in the next few weeks. One thing I didn’t get a chance to mention in the story: the businesspeople I talked to say that they would be happy to collect sales tax on online purchases, as long as it is a simple flat tax. That way they won’t have to conform to different schedules and requirements imposed by multiple taxing bodies such as cities, counties, and states.

According to Carla Yrjanson, vice president of tax research with Sabrix:

“Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, and local jurisdictions in Alaska impose sales and use tax. It has been estimated that the number of tax jurisdictions that impose tax is in excess of 7,600. Sabrix Tax Research continuously monitors over 13,000 tax authorities (state, county, city, and district) for changes to sales and use tax rates and changes to how goods and services are taxed. So far in 2009, we have documented over 340 sales and use tax rate changes and added over 131 new tax authorities. In addition to the challenges in keeping current on the rates and whether an item is exempt or not, it is also critical to stay current on how states determine which local jurisdictions can impose taxes on transactions that cross borders. We have a team of tax professionals tracking these changes on a daily basis. I can’t imagine how a small or mid-size business could cost effectively track these changes themselves without using a service such as the Sabrix Managed Tax Service.”

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