Direct Response Congressional Champion Retiring – What’s Next For Online Sales Tax?

by Bill McClellan on Nov 15, 2017 3:03:15 PM Government Relations

Photo taken from Congressman Bob Goodlatte's Facebook page.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has been a longtime industry friend on a number of issues important to direct response companies. Since 2013, he has served as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. In this position, he was a key player in the online sales tax debate where he actively championed legislation that would limit the states’ capacity to tax sales of remote retailers.

Now, he has announced that he is retiring and will not seek re-election in 2018. His retirement opens the debate of what’s next for online sales tax legislation in the years ahead.

There are two new dynamics at play. First, no one knows who will replace the chairman and what their position will be on this issue. The second new development is that South Dakota has asked the United States Supreme Court to revisit the online sales tax issue chilling Congressional debate as they decide whether or not to take the case.

The current thinking goes something like this. The issue of taxing remote sellers is so complex it would be difficult for the successor of the House Judiciary Chairmanship to make a meaningful impact on pushing through federal remote sales tax legislation without a lot of help from others. It is much easier for a Chairman to block legislation in a committee than it is to gain passage for a measure through both chambers of Congress.

However, the political calculus on movement might change if the Supreme Court decided to reopen their prior rulings limiting the states’ ability to collect taxes on remote purchases. The current thinking is that this would serve as a catalyst for Congressional action to ensure that small e-retailers are protected. Stay tuned for more on this developing story as it unfolds over the next 12 months. 

The good news is that Chairman Goodlatte still has a year left in Congress so we expect him to continue championing the issue until he retires. At ERA, we continue to support the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 (H.R. 2887), which he has co-sponsored. It would finally establish into law a solution for this issue that is fair to states and retailers both big and small.

I would also like to thank Chairman Goodlatte on behalf of our industry on a job well done. Regardless of your positon on this issue, his legacy remains intact. Through his tenure in Congress he served as an important and thoughtful leader who helped make the United States a better place for us all.

 About the Author


Bill McClellan serves as ERA's Vice President of Government Affairs. Prior to joining the association, Bill worked as a lobbyist at the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, covering the state legislature and Georgia's congressional delegation. Before working for the GADA, Bill managed political campaigns at both the congressional and state constitutional levels.

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