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Online sales tax a step closer with Senate budget amendment

Online shoppers, your days of tax-free purchases could soon be over.

Late last week, by a 75-to-24 vote, the Senate made clear its support for a national sales tax on a wide variety of Internet purchases.

75 Senators vote to tax online salesThe "yes" votes are this week's By the Numbers figure.

The online tax vote was for an amendment to the Senate's fiscal year 2014 budget resolution. The amendment was drafted by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) based on S. 336, the Marketplace Fairness Act, which Enzi introduced earlier this year. A companion measure, H.R. 684, is pending in the House.

Supporters of the measure were naturally elated. The vote was lauded by the Retail Industry Leaders Association as "a clear victory for Main Street retailers and those who believe in free and fair competition."

But their enthusiasm was tempered a bit for two reasons.

First, the amendment was a nonbinding resolution to the Senate budget.

And second, the Democratic Senate budget, with or without the symbolic Internet tax collection amendment, has no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled House.

Still, the 75 votes indicate strong support for collecting sales tax on Internet purchases.

Supporters are hopeful that the issue will come before both chambers sometime this year.

Online sellers already must collect sales tax from customers in their own states. They also are required to collect sales tax from out-of-state customers if the sellers have a physical presence, such as a store, warehouse or office, in the buyer's state.

And Amazon, which is a supporter of the Marketplace Fairness Act, has reached agreements with a growing number of states to collect sales taxes from their resident buyers.

So get ready online shoppers. Your days of tax-free Internet purchases are numbered.

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