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WV Sen. Rockefeller defends Marketplace Fairness Act

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In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., reiterated the importance of passing a bipartisan bill that would protect businesses and consumers by leveling the playing filed for locals businesses as they compete against online retailers.

The Senate currently is debating the Marketplace Fairness Act, which Rockefeller cosponsored. Rockefeller is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and he said the bill would give states the flexibility to collect already-required sales taxes on goods purchased from online retailers. Currently, consumers are left to calculate and send in the taxes they owe for online purchases, which most people don't do, because online companies are not required to charge sales tax.

But this bill would require all retailers, both brick-and-mortar and online, to charge the same sales tax. The bill exempts small businesses making less than $500,000 from state sales taxes.

According to estimates, West Virginia loses anywhere from $56 million to $103 million per year from the lack of sales tax revenue from Internet purchases. Supporters of the bill include national, state and local trade associations, including the West Virginia Retailers Association.

The West Virginia Legislature also looked at this issue. House Bill 2754, which passed the full Legislature and is now waiting action from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, requires online retailers with a physical facility in the state, whether a store or a distribution center, to charge state sales taxes. The bill unanimously passed the West Virginia Senate and passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 77-19.

The Marketplace Fairness Act would do basically the same thing in an attempt to level the playing field nationwide for brick-and-mortar businesses who compete against online retailers. It also would put the onus on the online retailer to calculate sales taxes for consumers and simplify the tax code.