"A number of states would fare better under the Greve system, which would would allow low tax states to institutionalise their advantage. Those with no sales tax would also benefit. The nation would be one big, blaring, competitive market place - which ought to be music to all our ears."
Amity Shlaes, Financial Times
Should online purchases be taxed based on the buyer's location or the seller's? In Sell Globally, Tax Locally, Michael S. Greve offers a provocative new approach to Internet sales taxation. Drawing upon his extensive background in federalism issues, Greve argues that an origin-based tax system would break the "tax cartel" and replace it with competition--giving states a motive to lower their sales taxes as a means of enticing companies to choose their state as a base of operations.
Cross-border sales, through the Internet or other channels, are commonly taxed on the basis of their destination, not the country or state of origin. That regime is uniformly decried as terribly complex, burdensome, and inefficient. It allows many Internet sales to escape taxation, depriving governments of revenues and giving Internet retailers an unwarranted advantage over traditional industries. Most reform proposals focus on intergovernmental tax harmonization and simplification. Instead of extending a broken destination-based sales tax system to e-commerce, Greve argues that we should tax cross-border sales on the basis of their location of origin, not their destination. Destination-based sales tax systems invariably conflict with elementary principles of sensible taxation--simplicity, fairness, neutrality, and ease of administration. An origin-based system, in contrast, satisfies those demands: Each cross-border sale would be taxed equally, once, and by a single authority.
Greve discusses the flaws of destination-based taxation, demonstrates the futility of international and national tax harmonization, and makes the theoretical case for origin-based taxation. He concludes with practical proposals to forestall international tax harmonization and to advance an origin-based sales tax system in the United States.
Michael S. Greve is the John G. Searle Scholar and director of the Federalism Project at AEI.