House Ways & Means Chairman Jay Powell, R - Camilla, sponsored the bill to force e-retailers to collect state sales taxes on the sale of their products or to force the companies to let the State Department of Revenue know who owes the taxes. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

State House backs plan to force Georgians to pay taxes on online sales

The Georgia House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved the state’s latest plan to get Georgians who buy goods online to pay sales taxes.

The House voted 157-11 for House Bill 61, which would force online retailers with at least $250,000 or 200 sales a year in Georgia to either collect and remit to the state sales taxes on purchases or send “tax due” notices each year to customers who spend at least $500 on their site.

Copies of the notices would go to the state Department of Revenue so it would know who owes at least some of the taxes.

Several House leaders from both major parties have signed onto the bill, sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Jay Powell, R-Camilla. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, said Tuesday he backs the idea.

Powell’s measure is the latest shot fired in a years-long battle to get online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases. The owners of retail stores — who have a lot of political clout at the Capitol — have long said they are handicapped by the fact that they have to charge state and local sales taxes on what their customers buy, while many online customers don’t. That means products can cost less when bought online.

The General Assembly passed a bill in 2012 aimed at getting Amazon.com to start collecting sales taxes, and in 2013 the company agreed to do so. Three years later it announced plans for a distribution center in Jackson County, which means it might have fallen under the Supreme Court ruling anyway.

But many other e-retailers still don’t collect or remit the taxes to the state.

A state fiscal analysis suggests collecting those taxes could mean an extra $274 million in revenue for the state and $200 million for local governments. The combined figure could hit $621 million by 2022.

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