Nebraska is one of 17 states willing to make a deal with Amazon sellers on online sales taxes.
The Multistate Tax Commission, an intergovernmental state tax agency, is offering a special limited-time voluntary disclosure initiative for companies that sell products through Amazon's Marketplace.
The program, which runs from Aug. 17-Oct. 17, aims to get companies to voluntarily start collecting sales taxes going forward by waiving any previous sales tax liability they may have had.
As of Tuesday, Nebraska and 16 other states had agreed to participate in the program.
Nebraska Tax Commissioner Tony Fulton was quick to point out that it is not an "amnesty" program, even though it's been described that way in the media.
An amnesty program provides a blanket exemption or waiver from tax liabilities, Fulton said. In this program, Nebraska will negotiate individual agreements with any company that applies and has the right to reject any applications.
Fulton said a main impetus for joining the program is to get online sellers to collect and remit Nebraska sales taxes that are due without having to pursue costly litigation.
Companies that have a physical presence, or "nexus," in the state, such as an office, warehouse or retail location, already are required by law to collect sales taxes. Those companies are not eligible for the voluntary disclosure program.
Fulton said companies that are likely to apply for the program are those looking for certainty regarding their tax liability or those that are in a gray area regarding whether they have a nexus in the state.
The program allows companies to apply anonymously, with their names only revealed if they decide to enter a voluntary agreement with one or more states.
Fulton said he has no idea how many -- if any -- companies will seek an agreement with Nebraska, but there's definitely potential.
"There are tens of thousands of them out there," he said.
They include everybody from one-person operations to large businesses that do millions of dollars a year selling on Amazon.
Amazon earlier this year agreed to start collecting sales taxes in several states, including Nebraska, for products it sells directly. But that policy does not apply to individual sellers in its marketplace. A bill in the Nebraska Legislature to either force all online sellers to collect sales taxes or inform Nebraska customers of their obligation to pay them was pulled from this year's session after facing a filibuster.
Though the Multistate Tax Commission program is specifically targeted at companies selling on the Amazon Marketplace, Fulton said he would consider signing agreements with companies that sell through other online outlets -- as long as that company meets the state's criteria.