The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would let states collect taxes on out-of-state Internet and catalog sales, providing a victory to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other retailers that say they face unfair competition.

The bipartisan 69-27 vote yesterday in Washington would let states require retailers outside their borders to collect and pay sales taxes. States lose an estimated $23 billion annually in forgone revenue from uncollected sales taxes.

The bill would end the era of tax-free Internet shopping, a practice that retailers say imperils their businesses. During the debate, senators offered examples of consumers who examine products in stores and then shop online to avoid paying sales tax.

“This bill is about fairness,” said Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican and co-sponsor of the measure. “It’s about leveling the playing field between the brick-and-mortar and online companies.”

The bill goes to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which probably won’t act quickly or pass a measure in the same form as the Senate. Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said that while he wants to address the issue, he is concerned it would create complexity for businesses and make them vulnerable to audits by multiple states.

Best Buy

The measure, supported by the Obama administration, attracted a coalition of backers including Best Buy Co., Inc. and shopping mall owners. Amazon, the largest Internet-based retailer, is expanding into more states to speed delivery, which means it will pay taxes anyway.

States would be required to join an interstate compact with streamlined rules or provide software to retailers. Sellers with less than $1 million in annual remote sales would be exempt.

Customers who make purchases from out-of-state retailers currently are required to pay use taxes on those purchases. Few do, and states have made only minimal efforts to collect those taxes, instead lobbying Congress for a national solution.

The bill would in effect reverse a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited states from taxing businesses that lack a physical presence inside their borders.

Opponents maintained that the bill would unfairly burden small businesses with paperwork and audits, create a tax advantage for foreign sellers and potentially allow state-level transaction taxes. Detractors included anti-tax groups, direct marketers and senators from states without sales taxes.

“I fear that what we’re going to do is crush a lot of those start-ups, a lot of those small businesses,” said Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, which doesn’t have a sales tax.

Enzi and co-sponsor Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, secured a 75-24 non-binding vote in March. They then maneuvered the bill around the Finance Committee, where Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, was a chief opponent.

The bills are S. 743 and H.R. 684.