Haslam Calls for Federal Action to Tax Online Retailers

Today Governor Bill Haslam renewed his call for national action to make online retailers collect state sales tax, saying he’s willing to take a frontline role pushing the issue.

Amazon made a deal late in the administration of Haslam’s predecessor, Phil Bredesen - a deal Haslam has said the state should honor. It lets Amazon set up shop in Tennessee without having to collect sales taxes from customers here.

Haslam says he’s concerned what effect such deals have on eroding the state’s tax base.

“It’s not going to begin eroding the state’s tax base; it already is. We’re losing - I don’t know if it’s - you see $300 million, you see $500 million in sales tax on Internet goods that we’re losing right now.”

Haslam says he’s more than willing to “play a leadership role” on pushing the issue to the national level, where he says it’s ultimately up to Congress to act.

State Senator Randy McNally, who sponsored a stalled proposal this spring to make Amazon collect sales tax, told the website TNReport he’d accept a compromise. McNally says he’d allow a two-year “grace period” before requiring such collections.

Governor Haslam, who’s still negotiating further expansion with Amazon, says he’d like to “define exactly” the company’s tax arrangement with the state. But he realizes the legislature will do what it wants, and for Amazon quote “that’s part of the business risk that they take.”

Last week Tennessee’s attorney general said a law forcing sales tax collections would pass constitutional muster.

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