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Senate Will Pass Online Tax Bill This Week, Reid Says

Senate Will Pass Online Sales Tax Bill This Week, Reid Says
The online sales tax measure is supported by retailers such as Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The U.S. Senate will pass a bill this week that would let states collect taxes on out-of-state sales, including sales over the Internet and through catalogs, said Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, blamed a “handful” of senators for delaying a final vote on the measure, which attracted 74 supporters on a procedural vote April 22 and 75 on another procedural vote today. Some of the most ardent opponents, including Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Max Baucus of Montana, are senior Democrats.

Under Senate rules, opponents can delay a final vote on the measure until April 27, after lawmakers are scheduled to return to their home states for a one-week break.

Reid, who often says he will keep the Senate in session if certain work isn’t completed, said he means it this time.

“This may be the time the wolf’s really coming,” he said, referring to suggestions that he has “cried wolf” about weekend work in the past.

Lawmakers are trying to negotiate an agreement that would allow votes on several amendments, said Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire and opponent of the bill.

“I don’t think that we should rush to limit debate on this bill,” said Ayotte, whose state is one of five without a sales tax.

Amazon, Wal-Mart

The online sales tax measure is supported by retailers such as Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Opponents include direct marketers, anti-tax groups and EBay Inc.

Supporters say brick-and-mortar retailers have a competitive disadvantage with Internet-based sellers and others, costing state governments an estimated $23 billion a year in forgone revenue.

Best Buy Co., the largest U.S. consumer electronics retailer, is encouraged that the bill appears headed for passage, Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly said.

“We prefer that the playing field is level,” Joly told reporters today in New York. “We are very competitive. We will win the game even if the playing field is not level.”

Best Buy’s sales in Arizona, which has begun collecting online sales taxes, are showing “a very nice uptick” in stores and online, Joly said without providing details. Best Buy is based in Richfield, Minnesota.

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