On July 29, 2011, the so-called “Main Street Fairness Act” was introduced in both houses of Congress. The bills, introduced as H.R. 2701 in the House of Representatives and as S. 1452 in the Senate, are identical. Under the proposed law, Member States in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA) would be authorized to require remote sellers (i.e., Internet retailers and other direct marketers with no physical presence in the state) to collect and remit state and local sales and use taxes notwithstanding the substantial nexus standard established by the Supreme Court in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota. There are currently 24 full and associate member states in the SSUTA, representing approximately 36% of the population of the United States. Many larger states, including California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas are not SSUTA members.
Similar bills have been introduced in past sessions of Congress, including in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2010. Brann & Isaacson Senior Partner, George Isaacson, has testified with regard to such prior legislation in 2003, 2006, and 2007 that the SSUTA has not achieved the goal of genuine simplification and uniformity of states sales and use tax systems. The requirements imposed on states by the current Congressional bills are substantially identical to prior versions and, in some respects, are even less demanding for states. In addition, H.R. 2701 and S. 1452 contain no express minimum level or “small seller” exemption that would protect smaller retailers from the obligation to collect use tax in all member states. Instead the bills defer to small seller exemptions established by the SSUTA states themselves.
We will keep you apprised of further developments regarding the bills.