Published 7:18 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Major internet retailers would have to collect and remit sales taxes on purchases made by Texans under a bill considered by the Senate Finance Committee on Monday. Current law places the burden on consumers, who are required to send a separate sales tax payment to the comptroller for every non-taxed internet purchase they make. This law is little known and seldom complied with, so bill author and San Antonio Senator Carlos Uresti believes a better system is to collect the tax at the point of sale. “The problem is that compliance is effectively voluntary, the use tax is basically unenforceable and has a negligible compliance rate,” he said. “The result is that out of state retailers are able to offer goods at prices that are 8.25 percent cheaper than those of local businesses, putting them at a competitive disadvantage.”

His bill, SB 1713, would require any online retailer that has more than half a million dollars in sales or more than a thousand transactions in a year to collect and remit sales tax payments made from Texas at their site.   It would also apply to third party sellers using online marketplaces, such as Amazon. Amazon has collected sales tax on direct purchases made in Texas since 2012, but Uresti says the third-party sellers that make up half of the website’s sales don’t. Uresti believes his bill could bring in anywhere between $250 million to over a billion dollars a year in sales tax revenues, based on a number of studies. The bill remains pending before the committee.

Also Monday, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard a bill that would permit first responders such as firemen and EMTs concealed carry privileges in places where it is otherwise banned. Dallas Senator Don Huffines argues that first responders are often on the scene of an accident or a crime before the police arrive and sometimes before the danger has passed. He pointed out that EMS workers are thirty times more likely to be assaulted on the job than the state average. Huffines said that EMS workers were placed in harm’s way when they helped to retrieve downed officers during the police ambush attack in Dallas last July. “Similar incidents are reported with regularity, nevertheless these brave men and women are deprived of their liberty to defend themselves,” he said. Huffines’ bill, SB 1408, would allow first responders concealed carry privileges if they have a state issued license-to-carry and complete an additional 20 hour training course on de-escalation and firearm use.   It was approved unanimously by the committee and will head to the full Senate for consideration.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 11 at 11 a.m.