UPDATE, 4.17.13: SB 226 was defeated in the House.
Utah lawmakers have narrowly approved a bill that would require online sellers to collect and remit Utah sales tax, as brick-and-mortar retailers do. According to Senator Wayne Harper (R-Taylorsville), who sponsored the bill, “We need to do something to maintain control of our own tax policy.” (Deseret News).
SB 226 “modifies the circumstances under which a person may be required to collect and remit sales and use taxes to the State Tax Commission.” In brief, it would require remote sellers who do not have nexus, or a physical presence in the state, to collect and remit sales taxes at both the state and local level. If passed, it would take effect on July 1, 2013.
Support for the bill was not overwhelming. While 15 members of the Senate approved the measure, 12 senators voted against it. Senator Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross) worried that “Utah will get sued if we pass this bill” because the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that states cannot force businesses to collect and remit sales tax unless they have nexus.
Sen. Weiler was also concerned that “[t]he public will see this as a tax increase. We will be branded as having raised taxes.” Senator Stephen Urquhart (R-St. George) argued that the measure would send a negative message to businesses: “At this point, this bill is an economy killer.”
That may be, but passage of SB 226 would help fill Utah’s coffers. According to the Deseret News:
The Legislature’s fiscal analysts say the bill would bring an additional $550,000 to the state in 2014. Businesses that would be subject to the law that are not currently required to pay or collect and remit sales and use taxes would pay about $785,000 more annually… .”
Many Utah businesses are in favor of the legislation. Speaking in support of SB 226, Utah businessman Scott Hymas pointed out that “[i]f the current tax loophole remains in place, online-only sales companies will continue to have an unfair advantage in the sales collection process, reducing the amount of tax money that goes to educate our children, pay for our needed services, and potentially reduce other taxes.”
SB 226 is now being considered by the House Rules Committee.
Meanwhile, back in the District of Columbia, federal lawmakers have yet to act on the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, which was introduced on February 14.