There's a big push under way to get the U.S. Senate to add an online sales tax measure to a budget bill being debated in Washington. We think it's a good idea.

We have long supported a federal mechanism enabling states to be able to collect sales tax that already is due but virtually no one pays.

The loophole exists because of court decisions predating widespread Internet use, and laws that haven't kept up with the times.

In the next few days, senators likely will be asked in a non-binding vote to attach the Marketplace Fairness Act to the Senate's version of the 2014 federal budget.

We hope they do so.

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall have expressed support for the concept embodied in the Internet sales tax measure, and deserve credit for taking that stand.

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that $23 billion of revenue went unrealized in 2012 due to the inability to compel collection. In Colorado, the number was $352 million for a variety of categories that include everything from buying something from an online retailer located in a different state, to catalog sales conducted by mail.

Exactly how much Colorado would see in revenue increases would depend upon how such a measure ultimately was crafted, but in just about any scenario, it would be significant.

In order for Colorado to be able to take advantage of the Marketplace Fairness Act, should it pass, the legislature would have to pass enabling legislation. The state would have to develop tax software that would compute the tax owed based on where a buyer lives. The rates are different in the state's many tax districts.

It would be Colorado's responsibility to distribute the revenue to the different jurisdictions.

As it stands, people who buy online often don't pay sales tax that is owed because there is no way to compel collection.

Beyond collection of revenue, the idea would level the playing field for businesses that pay to maintain a presence in communities and employ people who live there. They are getting killed by many online retailers who can offer goods sales-tax free.

The measure has bipartisan support in Congress, which is saying something given the fractious nature of our times. A successful vote on the Internet sales tax would offer hope that Congress can come together and pass important and sensible measures.

The Denver Post, March 22