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Daniel Malloy

David Perdue would not vote for Internet sales tax bill

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WASHINGTON – For months, the Jack Kingston campaign and various conservatives have attacked David Perdue for supporting an Internet sales tax.

In an interview with the AJC on Wednesday, Perdue said they have his position all wrong.

The controversial Marketplace Fairness Act, which has passed the U.S. Senate and not received a vote in the House, would empower states and municipalities to collect sales taxes from e-tailers that do not have a physical presence there. Taxpayers now are supposed to report the purchases and pay up on their tax returns, but few do.

The bill has the backing of many local leaders — including Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal — and brick-and-mortar retailers. Some conservative groups have denounced it as an effective tax hike.

Perdue has been complimentary of the concept. Take this answer in January at a candidates’ forum put on by the Georgia Municipal Association, where Perdue appeared to break from the pack and endorse the bill:

“Being the only retailer up here, I can tell you – I’ve seen both sides of this conversation. Look, one of the things the federal government does – or should do, frankly – is make sure all players in our free enterprise system play on an even playing field. Here’s where, because of technology, they’re not. Frankly, I think whether you have brick-and-mortar, or Internet sales, we should have the same rules apply to both. That’s from a retailer.”

The crowd applauded, Perdue recalled Wednesday. The AJC and other media reported he had endorsed the bill. Perdue said that was based on a truncated answer:

“What I really believe is I think the FairTax solves the problem because it creates a level playing field. What I was saying was, as a retailer I support that. So the advantages of the FairTax can be seen in several different places, and I think that’s one of ‘em.”

The FairTax is a national 23 percent sales tax to replace the income tax that both Perdue and Kingston support. So he would not support the Marketplace Fairness Act?

“No. I think this is where they take an issue and break it down and take it out of context. The way to solve the imbalance between Internet and brick and mortar is the FairTax. …  That’s the problem — they try to solve these things incrementally. [The FairTax is] a holistic solution.”

Perdue contends, then, that Kingston’s “tax increase” attack is bogus if it’s based entirely on the debunked Macon Telegraph “revenue” comment and on the Internet sales tax, which he says is not a policy difference at all.

On the similar question of closing tax loopholes in the way that Saxby Chambliss has sought to do, Perdue told Jim Galloway last week that he now believes the only cure for the tax code is to blow it up:

“If we try to incrementalize our way to solve the real problem with our tax code, we’re not going to get there. I didn’t start here, but I’ve been educated over the last year.”

Lobbyists and PACs, he said, have too much influence to allow a small-step approach.

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