Bill Would Help Enforce Internet Sales Tax

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COLUMBIA - Tax season is over, but most Missouri consumers didn't pay some of what they owe to the state. Consumers are supposed to take responsibility for sales tax on items bought online, but only a fraction of Missourians do. 

"Compliance is very low...last year estimates were about 200 Missourians," said Andrew Wesemann, a doctoral student at the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri.

Senator Roy Blunt is co-sponsoring a bill along with nine other senators from both parties that would help states enforce the often overlooked tax. The bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act, would require all online vendors to charge sales tax and give that money to the state where the item was purchased. Right now, vendors only need to charge sales tax if they have a physical presence in the state. 

For example, as of now Amazon.com does not need to charge sales tax to Missourians because Amazon is located in California, not in Missouri. But Walmart does have to charge sales tax because it has locations in Missouri. 

Wesemann said the bill could help Missouri claim billions of dollars in tax money.

"From 2011 to 2014 Missouri could collect up to $1.3 billion," said Wesemann 

The bill cleared a filibuster in the Senate and is currently up for debate. 

Senator Claire McCaskill's office said she supports the Marketplace Fairness Act as well. A statement from her office said "I support this proposal to fix a disparity hurting our brick-and-mortar retailers. I'd also like to see leaders in the Missouri State Legislature spend more of their time taking action on this issue."

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