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Public Statements

Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ENZI. Madam President, I wish to thank the Senator from North Dakota for her comments and her involvement for over 20 years. I feel like a newcomer, with just the 12 years I have been trying to get this passed. Wyoming has recognized the need for it and has had the desire for it. We were one of the first to join the streamlined sales tax effort, and I think we were joined by a number of our surrounding States. The purpose of that, of course, was to make it simpler so it would be easier for people to collect the tax.

I wish to congratulate the Senators from Maine for putting forward what I consider to be kind of a phase-in part. Of course, there are a lot of people who would like to have it done a lot faster than that, but this would allow 1 year for people to get their program up and running. Part of that time would be taken by the free software that has to come from the States. It will take them a while to get that together, although everybody is hearing from eBay a little bit, and eBay already has one of those sales tax programs. It costs 15 bucks a month if you want to collect sales tax in the States, so it isn't like it is something impossible.

I know L.L.Bean is going through a major computer switchover right now, so they know how difficult that is, and if it were compounded at the same time by having the sales tax collected, it could create some difficulties. In checking around, we have gotten the suggestion there be 1 year allowed before they had to start collecting the taxes.

There is another small provision that says from October 31 through December 31 there wouldn't be a conversion because that is the Christmas season. In retail, that is the big season. If they can't concentrate on their customers at that point in time, they are not going to make their money. It makes the whole year just in those couple of months there. So there is an exclusion the program wouldn't go into effect during that period of time.

So there is this kind of a phase-in for everybody to get everything ready. I know it is a lot more time than what States would like to have. They would like to begin collecting the taxes in 90 days, if they were able to get their program in place in 90 days. But we think that is reasonable. They brought that to the floor, but it was objected to even getting to debate it. So we don't get to vote on that.

Around here a lot of times people say: It is a filibuster if you don't get to, and if there is cloture, then everybody ought to vote against cloture until everybody gets their amendments. How can you do your amendments if one person can object--and has. I think there would probably be three or four who would object, maybe six or eight who would object. But it is hard to do the amendments, and that should definitely not be the reason for anybody to vote against final cloture on this bill and get it enacted. Hopefully, we can still get some amendments through the process. Anything that is germane after cloture can still be voted on.

I know there are a lot of proposals out there. Some of those proposals, of course, deal with something other than what would be germane to this bill. There would be major changes in the tax structure in other ways. We have tried to keep this to an 11-page bill. We tried to keep it simple, keep it to one topic. It is something anybody can read and understand. In fact, I don't remember a bill that has had language quite as clear.

I thank the Senator from Tennessee, Mr. Alexander, for all his concentration. He looked at the 80-plus page bill we had, which had a lot more stuff in it, and said why don't we make this into a States rights bill. Once we took that approach to it, it made all the language much simpler. We just needed some basics for them to have to participate, and so that is why it is an 11-page bill. We will not see an 11-page bill come through here very often. I would guess some of the amendments being proposed--that have nothing to do with the collection of sales tax--are probably more extensive in pages than what this bill is.

We are hoping people will stick to germane and relevant--or at least relevant; that is a little broader than germane, and we can do some amendments.

But if there is going to be an objection--and I was just in a meeting where I was assured this is going to happen, and there is going to be an objection every time, no matter what the amendment is--I am very disappointed in that.

I do want to point out there is a small seller exemption. If you are a retailer and you do less than $1 million of sales online during a year, you don't come under this bill. You don't do anything different than what you are doing right now. For a lot of small businesses, $1 million would be a lot of money. I have heard some proposals that maybe we go to $10 million or $20 million. That affects some big retailers that don't want to do it. But to small retailers, $1 million is a lot of sales when it is just the ones that are done online. We are not talking about their total sales--what they do in their stores. We are just talking about the ones where they put up their Web site and they get orders and they ship out those orders. If that exceeds $1 million, the next year they would have to start collecting it.

So not only, with the Collins amendment, would there be 1 year built into the time before they would have to start doing it, there would also be another year before they would hit the $1 million, and if they do not hit the $1 million, then they have another year and another year and another year until they do. Of course, having been a small businessman, I am pulling for all of them to exceed $1 million.

Most small businesses I know would be so tickled to hit $1 million they would think maybe this wouldn't be such a bad deal. This is definitely giving some emphasis to online sales. It is much easier now to get a Web site. In fact, the Small Business Administration has been going from State to State to State and providing people who will do free Web sites for people who attend a seminar on how to do online sales. I commend the Small Business Administration for doing that. I think it has helped a number of businesses that haven't been able to expand beyond the few thousand dollars they are selling in their own stores to increase their sales. We hope everybody gets to exceed $1 million.

There is another part of that $1 million that is kind of interesting. If you are a nursery--and we heard an example of a nursery last night--and you are doing big sales, the chances are pretty good some of those big sales are to other nurseries. If a product is sold to somebody else to be resold, there isn't a sales tax. So that wouldn't count in the $1 million.

We did hear an example during the press conference of a contractor in a State and the other contractor got all his stuff online and from out of State and on a $150,000 contract was able to undercut him by 10 percent. It was just a $150,000 project--a category that small businessmen specialize in--but he was beat out by an out-of-State person who didn't pay sales tax on the products they were bringing into the State and using in construction.

So we do have a small seller exemption. There is also simplification in the bill, and I would be happy to go through that. We haven't had any suggestions for more simplification, at least from those who understand what the simplification is.

One of the reasons that is fairly simple now is because computers have come a long way. I don't know how many people here have purchased something online, but when you do, you put in your address where you want something shipped, and when you go over to see what the bill is going to be, not only will there be the price of the product, but there will be a sales tax. In a number of States, people have volunteered to collect it, and for the number of people who have volunteered to collect it, we really appreciate that.

I cannot believe that Senator Collins' request to bring up an amendment that would allow a phase-in, that would give everybody extra time, would be objected to, but, as I said, when we checked we found out that everything is going to be objected to, which will bring us to a cloture vote.

I yield the floor.


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