Internet sales tax vote could come by the end of the week

State lawmakers are quickly pushing for an internet sales tax, a possible new revenue stream amid budget cuts.

 

ATLANTA — The Georgia House and Senate are quickly pushing for an internet sales tax, a possible new revenue stream amid budget cuts.

Proposed legislation carried over from last year that would require companies to collect and remit sales tax on internet sales could come as early as the end of the first week of the session.

Leaders from both the Senate and House have touted their collaboration across the aisles of the Capitol to see this legislation progress.

On the House side, HB 276, sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, would collect taxes from “marketplace facilitators” whose websites are used to sell goods and products produced by a separate company.

Senate leaders are also pushing for third-party sellers to charge a sales tax on online purchases. The Senate moved on the first day of the session to insist on their version of the bill, sending it back to the House. On Tuesday, the House insisted on its own bill.

The next step is the forming of a temporary conference committee made up of three House and three Senate members. The House has already appointed its three members: Harrell, Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe, and Matt Dollar, R-Marietta.

Harrell told CNHI that the General Assembly is looking to get this legislation passed "as quickly as possible.”

“I think both the House, the Senate and the administration, all three, are in agreement that this is an issue that, quite frankly, we probably should have accomplished last year,” Harrell said.

Harrell said he doesn’t expect significant changes during committee, saying state lawmakers have had time to learn lessons from 30 states that passed similar legislation last year.

“I think it was just kind of getting everybody comfortable and a couple of lessons learned from across the country, and we should be in pretty good shape to get it done quickly.”

The main substance of the bill remains the same, he said, the online facilitator — the marketplace — is responsible for collecting and remitting the taxes that are due with a standing threshold of $100,000.

Harrell said he will have conversations with Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and if they can agree on a final document, there is a good chance it will be voted on by the end of the week.

When asked if the speedy process is a response to the uncertainty of the state budget, Harrell told CNHI that this legislation was introduced last session, before there was any concern related to the budget and additional revenue generation.

“We're basically collecting taxes that are already due from out-of-state sellers,” Harrell said. “For me, that's my motivation, to try to level the playing field on local brick and mortar businesses with internet competitors from all over the world, quite frankly, but of course this bill will affect those just in the United States.”

Hufstetler, who was a Senate sponsor of the House bill, told senators on the first day of the session that the issue is bigger than increasing revenue.

“As it stands, our state is missing out on potentially millions of dollars of revenue due to not collecting the existing sales tax on marketplace facilitators,” Hufstetler said during a Senate Majority Caucus conference. “We will quickly move on a proposal to bring much-needed tax revenues to the state that are currently owed, but are not being collected.”

Riley Bunch covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites.

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