On This PageJune 2000, No. 154

The Debate on Internet Sales Taxation
Last Updated: 05/10/00

The advent and expansion of the Internet have brought the issue of the application of state and local sales taxation to Internet, telephone, catalog, and other “remote sales” to the forefront of the policy debate. Under current law, states cannot require corporations without a substantial presence within their borders to collect and remit sales taxes. While all states do require residents to remit the taxes owed in the form of use tax payments, few people send in use tax forms, rendering remote sales essentially tax-free. The revenue loss due to the lack of taxation on Internet sales has been minimal thus far; however, states are concerned that the growth of the Internet will lead to a substantial drain on revenue. In this Fed Letter, the author describes the debate on the tax treatment of Internet commerce and potential solutions the states might pursue.