States could have collected $3.3 billion more in sales taxes this year if a proposed federal law were in place giving them the ability to enforce their current levies on out-of-state mail order companies, a new study said.
"This figure represents approximately 2.4% of total slate sales and use tax collections," said the report, produced by the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, a federally funded agency.
"Nine states would receive more than $100 million in additional 1994 revenue, with California's gain of $483 million the highest, followed by New York at $359 million," the report said.
The other seven states missing out on at least $100 million are Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas, according to the report. Another 18 states would have made at least an additional $40 million.
The Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that Congress could overturn an existing law stipulating that states can collect taxes from out-of-state vendors only if those sellers are somehow physically linked to the state. The law renders most out-of-state tax collection unworkable because the rest is left to voluntary compliance.
Congress is considering a bill, sponsored by Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., that would enable states to collect those lost taxes. One lobbyist close to the issue said the bill was unlikely to be passed this year, but would probably be considered again next year.
-- Joan Pryde, Washington