AIM Puts On Defensive Look As Tax Talks Begin

Suggesting the U.S. government and its state and local counterparts are predators “poised to take advantage of the new kid on the block — electronic commerce,” the Association for Interactive Media has launched an Online Shopping Council watchdog group.

The announcement comes as the Congressionally mandated Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce begins a two-day conference in on Internet taxation issues.

AIM, the Internet arm of the Direct Marketing Association, is trying to rally Internet shopping companies against any adjustments in the current three-year moratorium on Internet taxation. That ban took effect in October 1998 as part of the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

The new Online Shopping Council will lobby Congress and appropriate federal agencies to prevent passage of any new legislation permitting taxes on sales and services provided via the Internet.

Noting the law enacted in October only applies to “discriminatory or multiple taxation,” AIM argues politicians looking to win points with voters back home may find many other ways “to come up with creative ways around the Act.” AIM’s Online Shopping Council is forming now to try to impact what happens at the expiration of the three-year moratorium.

“We need uniform definitions of what goods and services mean in cyberspace so that our members — those ultimately subject to cybertaxation — will understand the parameters in which they can operate. This is what the AIM Online Shopping Council will undertake as its primary mission,” AIM Acting Executive Director Ben Isaacson said.

AIM Senior Consultant on Electronic Commerce Stan Sokul already represents the group on the Advisory Commission. The Online Shopping Council includes Internet Shopping Network, Crutchfield, CD Now, Yahoo! Direct, Fingerhut, Disney-Buena Vista, Citicorp and several other online companies and advertisers.

Today’s agenda of the Advisory Commission features only an administrative meeting, with little news expected until Wednesday, when discussions and presentations by participating commission members begins in earnest. More information about the meeting is available at www.ecommercecommission.org.

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