VIDEO: Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne Talks Internet Sales Taxes

Following up on an earlier post I wrote about the legal theory and precedent behind online retailers and state sales taxes, I thought I’d share this video from C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” show, in which Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne makes the consitutional and policy cases for not subjecting online retailers to state sales taxes:

Scott Peterson, executive director of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, offers the pro-tax position in the latter half of the video.

Recall in my last piece that I deduced that

the Internet has connected people in ways they’ve never before been able to connect, and one of the ways it has done this is through electronic commerce. As such, if someone in Michigan buys something from an Amazon Associate seller in California, and that order is filled in California (or anywhere else), then commerce has taken place across state lines. Last time I checked, only the U.S. Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and California therefore has no taxing power over Amazon Associates sellers in California — unless they’re taxing purchases made by Californians only.

To that end, Massachsetts Democratic Rep. William Delahunt has introduced federal legislation to introduce a federal sales tax on electronic commerce, using language from Peterson’s group.

If you missed it, check out Walter Hellerstein’s paper, “Commerce Clause restraints on state tax incentives” for additional legal analysis of state-based attempts to levy sales taxes on Internet purchases.

Just a little more food for thought in this ongoing debate.


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