KANSAS CITY — Missouri loses about $468 million per year in uncollected sales tax on purchases made over the Internet, according to researchers at MU's Truman School of Public Affairs.
The state misses the money in part because it hasn't signed onto a 1999 agreement to simplify and encourage voluntary collection of sales taxes by e-commerce retailers, The Kansas City Star reported. Only about half of the states have signed the agreement.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot levy sales and use taxes on businesses that don't have a store, office or other physical location in the state. Missouri consumers are technically required to pay taxes on purchases from outside the state, but almost none comply.
To remedy that situation, the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures created the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax, which is meant to simplify sales tax collection across jurisdictions that have varying tax rates. The governing body for the Streamlined Sales agreement says about 1,400 retailers voluntarily collect sales taxes under the agreement.
Participating in the program would provide a short-term solution, increasing revenue for Missouri, MU researchers said in its report. The better, longer-term solution, the report suggested, is for Missouri legislators to lobby Congress to pass federal legislation.
A Marketplace Fairness Act, introduced in Congress and co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, and Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, would give states additional power to collect sales tax on e-commerce.
"The act would bring equity to sellers and consumers in the sense that it would be harder for individuals to evade paying sales and use taxes," the MU report said.
The report said the act also would "level the playing field" for Missouri-based sellers forced to compete with online vendors from outside the state.