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Survey indicates future of interstate tax policy

A new survey indicates the views of state tax regulators on interstate commerc

As technology evolves, it's no longer strictly necessary for a company to have a brick-and-mortar facility in a region to do business there. This has state regulators scrambling to work out a new tax system to govern transactions - both business and personal - in the new era of interstate commerce.

The most important thing regulators must determine is just how much presence a company can have within a state before a tax can be imposed. Known as the "nexus" in legal terms, this threshold is different in each state, but as cloud computing and e-commerce become the norm, accounting standards and practices may begin to shift along with the tax code.

Bloomberg BNA recently surveyed tax regulators in all 50 states to get a picture of what might trip the tax trigger for businesses in the new online America. For some states - 16 in all - having a physical computer server inside state lines is enough to prompt a business tax. In 14 states, simply having a substantial number of customers with in-state billing addresses would trigger the nexus.

Online retail giant Amazon.com is perhaps the most notable company to run afoul of interstate tax law. The company has been under pressure from state agencies for not imposing state sales taxes on online purchases. Amazon recently brokered a deal with Texas to begin collecting sales taxes in that state.

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