Printed on: May 01, 2013

Lawmakers mull Internet sales tax

By CHRISTINA LORDS
clords@postregister.com

As members of Congress mull the pros and cons of establishing an Internet sales tax, so, too, are members of the Idaho Legislature.

It's essential to strike a balance between creating an even playing field between local shops and marketing mammoths such as Amazon, and creating an environment where local businesses that sell their goods solely online can grow, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis said.

The Idaho Falls Republican was one of several local lawmakers to speak on the topic at a Legislative report luncheon hosted by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce. Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and Reps. Thomas Loertscher, R-Iona; Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls; and Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, also attended.

"We've got a lot of businesses in this state selling (goods) online both nationally and internationally," Davis said. "We don't want to create barriers, and that has been a problem."

Hill stressed that the new legislation, expected to be considered for final passage before the U.S. Senate on Monday, wouldn't be a new tax. It would allow state governments to force Internet businesses to collect sales tax from their customers, much like brick-and-mortar businesses do.

The issue is an annual legislative priority for the chamber, Legislative Committee Chairwoman Rebecca Casper said.

Once the federal government makes a decision on the sales tax, state legislators can determine how they'd like to enact the changes in Idaho, Trujillo said.

"This is a fairness issue for our businesses," she said. "Until we can get some clearer legislation and get some uniformity behind that legislation on the books, this will continue to be an issue."

Legislators also were peppered with questions to determine whether their support of Idaho National Laboratory becoming an interim storage site for nuclear waste as a way to bring in federal dollars to the state.

Davis, a member of the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission, said there is no timeline for future meetings but does feel confident that the commission will see more work ahead.

The commission released a report in February outlining the future of nuclear energy in Idaho. Commission members called any decision to become an interim site for nuclear waste storage premature.

"It is not anticipated that we will see before the 2014 session a provision or some kind of significant resolution or legislation that would (encourage) interim storage in Idaho," Davis said. "To be very candid, we're very far away from that."

Reporter Christina Lords can be reached at 542-6762.