The Marketplace Fairness Act was passed by the U.S. Senate on May 6th and is currently pending vote in the House of Representatives. The MFA would enable state governments to tax online retailers generating $1 million or more in a fiscal year.

The Marketplace Fairness Act is not a federal sales tax but a uniform framework for state governments to enforce their own sales tax laws on interstate exchanges. If the bill is passed in the House of Representives and enacted by President Obama, who has already indicated support for the legislation, states will have to follow basic rules as outlined by Rick Burgess if they do not join the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement:

  • Notify retailers in advance of any rate changes.
  • Designate a single state organization to handle sales tax registrations, filings, and audits.
  • Establish a uniform sales tax base.
  • Establish a way that a retailer can pay sales tax at a different state’s rate for sellers in that state.
  • Provide free software for managing sales tax compliance
  • Hold retailers harmless for any errors that result from relying on state-provided systems and data

The bill has rallied supporters and opponents alike. Among the supporters are state and local governments who can expect increased tax revenue as well as The National Retail Federation -the worlds largest retail trade association. The NRF has urged Congress to pass and implement the MFA. In a letter distributed to members of the Senate, NRF Senior Vice-President, David French states:

“As the retail industry evolves and digital commerce becomes a more prominent portion of total retail sales, it is critical that the tax laws not discriminate between businesses based on how their products are distributed…The Marketplace Fairness Act addresses the crisis by removing the constitutional limitations on states’ authority to collect sales tax from out-of-state sellers.”

Ardent opponent of the MFA Terri Alpert, a well-respected CEO in Connecticut who has built two top-shelf brands that generate more than $14 million in sales every year sat down with Forbes magazine to discuss why she is against the bill. The most vocal proponents claim that the MFA is an attempt to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers but in reality it is: “a way to consolidate sales and power in the hands of the biggest retailers and to crush the little guys with an administrative burden that no small or even medium-size company can handle” according to Alpert.

In regards to the $1 million dollar revenue cutoff exemption Alpert adds that “for most people, that sounds like a pretty large business. But retailers work on very small net margins, often 5% or lower. So the typical $1 million seller may have one part-time employee and may be earning about $50,000 a year!”

The Marketplace Fairness Act may have more difficulty passing through the Republican majority of Congress than it encountered in the Senate. For now, only time will tell how the Marketplace Fairness Act will play out. In the event that you have any questions about the pending legislation or any legal business matters, contact your Denver business attorney Elizabeth Lewis at 720-258-6647 .