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Public Statements

Business Activity Tax Simplification Act of 2005

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


BUSINESS ACTIVITY TAX SIMPLIFICATION ACT OF 2005 -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 28, 2005)

SPEECH OF
HON. BOB GOODLATTE
OF VIRGINIA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2005

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce today, along with my good friend Mr. BOUCHER, the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act of 2005. This important legislation provides a "bright line" that clarifies state and local authority to collect business activity taxes from out-of-state entities.

Many states and some local governments levy corporate income, franchise and other taxes on out-of-state companies that conduct business activities within their jurisdictions. While providing revenue for states, these taxes also serve to pay for the privilege of doing business in a state.

However, with the growth of the Internet, companies are increasingly able to conduct transactions without the constraint of geopolitical boundaries. The growth of interstate business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions raises questions over where multi-state companies should be required to pay corporate income and other business activity taxes.

Over the past several years, a growing number of jurisdictions have sought to collect business activity taxes from businesses located in other states, even though those businesses receive no appreciable benefits from the taxing jurisdiction and even though the Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution prohibits a state from imposing taxes on businesses that lack substantial connections to the state. This has led to unfairness and uncertainty, generated contentious, widespread litigation, and hindered business expansion, as businesses shy away from expanding their presence in other states for fear of exposure to unfair tax burdens.

In order for businesses to continue to become more efficient and expand the scope of their goods and services, it is imperative that clear and easily navigable rules be set forth regarding when an out-of-state business is obliged to pay business activity taxes to a state. Otherwise, the confusion surrounding these taxes will have a chilling effect on e-commerce, interstate commerce generally, and the entire economy as tax burdens, compliance costs, litigation, and uncertainty escalate.

Previous actions by the Supreme Court and Congress have laid the groundwork for a clear, concise and modern "bright line" rule in this area. In the landmark case of Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court declared that a state cannot impose a tax on an out-of-state business unless that business has a "substantial nexus" with the taxing state. However, the Court did not define what constituted a "substantial nexus" for purposes of imposing business activity taxes.

In addition, over forty years ago, Congress passed legislation to prohibit jurisdictions from taxing the income of out-of-state corporations whose in-state presence was nominal. Public Law 86-272 set clear, uniform standards for when states could and could not impose such taxes on out-of-state businesses when the businesses' activities involved the solicitation of orders for sales. However, like the economy of its time, the scope of Public Law 86-272 was limited to tangible personal property. Our Nation's economy has changed dramatically over the past forty years, and this outdated statute needs to be modernized.

That is why we are introducing this important legislation today. The Business Activity Tax Simplification Act both modernizes and provides clarity in an outdated and ambiguous tax environment. First, the legislation updates the protections in PL 86-272. Our legislation reflects the changing nature of our economy by expanding the scope of the protections in PL 86-272 from just tangible personal property to include intangible property and all types of services.
In addition, our legislation sets forth clear, specific standards to govern when businesses should be obliged to pay business activity taxes to a state. Specifically, the legislation establishes a "physical presence" test such that an out-of-state company must have a physical presence in a state before the state can impose franchise taxes, business license taxes, and other business activity taxes.

The clarity that the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act will bring will ensure fairness, minimize litigation, and create the kind of legally certain and stable business climate that encourages businesses to make investments, expand interstate commerce, grow the economy and create new jobs. At the same time, this legislation will ensure that states and localities are fairly compensated when they provide services to businesses with a physical presence in the state.
I urge each of my colleagues to support this very important bipartisan legislation.

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