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Newegg Defies New York Sales Tax Law

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-expanding-here-thanks dept.

Government 635

JagsLive informs us that the electronics retailer Newegg.com is defying New York lawmakers; it has suddenly stopped collecting sales tax from New York online shoppers. The "Amazon tax," which went into effect June 1, requires online merchants to collect sales tax if they have any affiliates in the state. Amazon is complying but has sued the state on constitutional grounds. Overstock.com dropped all of its New York affiliates and then joined the Amazon lawsuit. Newegg started out complying with the law on June 1, but stopped collecting taxes for New York on August 21. From Newegg's letter to its customers: "After careful review and consideration, we are pleased to inform you that we have stopped collecting New York sales tax, effective August 21, 2008," reads an email the company tossed at customers late last week, including at least one loyal Reg reader. "This decision was driven by your direct and candid feedback and our continued commitment to you as our valued customers."

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635 comments

Taxed to death (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763253)

Thats what we NY'ers are. Newegg is now back on the top of my to purchase list.

Gotta love WiFi... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763343)

How else can I sit on the crapper sipping coffee, reading /., and taking a giant Obama.

Wake up, America. This is the Presidency we're talking about - not "American Idol." This is serious business. Want to know what Obama's economic plan will look like? Look at Michigan, with the highest unemployment rate in the Union and businesses fleeing like rats from a sinking ship due to the high taxes. This is what happens when you let the moonbats sit on daddy's lap and hold the wheel. Of course, the Dimocrats love this scenario because it creates an army of discontent voters wholly dependent on government hand-outs just to survive. Who's going to vote for homelessness and starvation? People in the Rust Belt: just remember who it is that built the cage and placed you in it.

I have an idea: let's ban the use of teleprompters by either candidate for the rest of the election period. When the rest of the world hears that Barack Obama unplugged makes GW Bush sound like William Shakespeare, I'm sure their legs will stop tingling in short order. For God's sake, I've never heard so many "Uhhh... uhhh... uhhhs." He sounds like a fifth-grader trying to wing his way through a book report that he forgot to write. Is that what is supposed to pass for contemplativeness?

To the people of San Francisco: why do you keep terrorizing the rest of the country by repeatedly sending Bella Pelosi back to Washington? Do you not understand that she has presided over a Congress that has had a lower rating than President Bush during her entire reign? The rest of the country hates her, as evidenced by her failed attempt to write a book on how America's daughters can grow up to be ball-busting bitches like her.

I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (5, Interesting)

metamechanical (545566) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763263)

Could someone explain, isn't it required by (most) states' laws that individuals pay sales tax on goods purchased? I mean, people like "neglecting" to pay it, because it's easy to avoid, but ideally doesn't the New York law just shift the burden from the taxpayer at tax time to the retailer at time of purchase?

I guess what I'm asking is: is this whole problem arising from the retailers' desire not to be burdened with the logistics of collecting tax, and the consumers' desire to evade the tax? Or is there something else I'm missing here?

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Informative)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763313)

You don't have to pay sales tax in your state on goods purchased in another state. The whole problem with internet companies is deciding what "state" they are in.

The argument Amazon et. al make is that under the US constitution the federal government has sole jurisdiction to regulate interstate commerce - and New York imposing a sales tax on goods purchased in another state would run contrary to that.

The arguments in court certainly are going to surround in what "state" Amazon.com is operating in.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Informative)

Schezar (249629) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763405)

"You don't have to pay sales tax in your state on goods purchased in another state. The whole problem with internet companies is deciding what "state" they are in."

Yes you do, albeit indirectly. You have to pay a "use tax [wikipedia.org]" on anything purchased outside of your tax jurisdiction which you then bring in for use or consumption. This is a whole branch of our tax code that doesn't cope well with the modern, internetworked world.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (5, Informative)

stinerman (812158) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763457)

An outside observer might wonder why this is such a big deal since the tax is going to be paid as use tax rather than sales tax. The difference here is that sales tax is charge at the point of sale while the use tax is charged on state tax returns.

Use tax is notoriously hard to enforce because the state necessarily doesn't know about any items you bought in a different state. Many people lie about their use tax liability on their state tax returns because the state usually doesn't have any evidence to the contrary.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Informative)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763999)

Use tax is also not well enforced because use tax can be deducted on tax forms, so what you don't report in use tax doesn't increase your tax return. In a sense, you're paying use tax indirectly by not reporting your purchases. Although, this isn't the case when you itemize your deductions and report deductions on goods purchased out of state.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (5, Interesting)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763865)

Right.. but the Use tax applies to citizens within a state buy something from out of state. Of course I don't understand how that survived any Interstate commerce challenges. It seems to be that while indirect, it's still affecting Interstate commerce.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Interesting)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763969)

It doesn't even cope well with the paved world. If you buy a box of matches in Ontario County, NY, use half of the matches, drive to your home in Monroe County, NY, and then use the other half, you have to pay the difference between Monroe County tax and Ontario County tax on half the purchase price of the box of matches. Somehow you should get the tax difference on half the purchase price back if you do it the other way around, but good luck with that.

Just a way to make sure that they can arrest any citizen in the country on tax evasion charges any time they want.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1, Informative)

bconway (63464) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763473)

You don't have to pay sales tax in your state on goods purchased in another state. The whole problem with internet companies is deciding what "state" they are in.

You most certainly do. Feel free to call up your state revenue office (assuming you live in a state that collects sales tax, some do not) and ask them how they feel about good purchased in another state.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (5, Informative)

Rocketship Underpant (804162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763567)

It doesn't matter how they feel. New York State can't tax a purchase made in Texas (or wherever Amazon is located) any more than they can tax a purchase made in Mongolia. Moreover, they can't impose taxes on New York citizens importing goods from other states, because the Constitution and its commerce clause forbid that.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (2, Insightful)

b96miata (620163) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763597)

You may feel the commerce clause forbids use taxes, but they're on the books in damn near every state, and it'd be up to you to spend years in court fighting your state revenue service to prove it's unconstitutional.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Insightful)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763715)

Good thing all the mega corporations don't think it's fair either... They will end up fighting it instead of individual citizens.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763695)

Yes they can. And they do.

You state nice legal theories. Good luck with them.

The NYS tax agency makes the Fed IRS look like kind and gentle souls.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (2, Informative)

badasscat (563442) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763731)

It doesn't matter how they feel. New York State can't tax a purchase made in Texas

They can and they do [nysscpa.org]. Moreover, this is not new. Nor is it unique to New York.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

rktechhead (1348421) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763847)

That part of the issue sounds clear, but more than likely there are some gray areas. As stated by previous comments it is quite difficult at times to place an internet company in a particular state. Do you go by where it's headquarters is, or by where the warehouses are with the goods?

Honestly New York is just causing trouble, I'm quite surprised they wrote up a tax like this. It's hard to image no one threw up a red flag saying 'law suit lawsuit alert lawsuit!' But those are their tax payers dollars at work.

Regardless, these transactions shouldn't be taxed, it's one of the reasons business has picked up substantially on the internet.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (3, Insightful)

neltana (795825) | more than 5 years ago | (#24764009)

The commerce clause certainly prevents a state from imposing tariffs on imports from other states. However, the use tax is not a tariff. It is a tax it imposes on its own citizens based on what they will do with the item, not those conducting the commerce.

For instance, in my state, items brought into the state for personal use are generally taxed at the same rate as items bought in state if they are brought into the state within 6 months of purchase. Items brought in for resale are not taxed.

So, clearly, this isn't a tax on commerce. It is a state imposing a tax on its citizens...which is well within the constitution.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763589)

According to the US Constitution, the Federal Government regulates interstate commerce and each state regulates within-the-state commerce.

Simple.

Then you get a bunch of lawyers involved and government people/politicians who ALWAYS WANT MORE MONEY, ALWAYS.

My state and most others have a law that says, if you didn't pay sales tax in another state, you need to pay it to them. I don't know of anyone who actually puts this on their state income tax return and I don't recall my state having a special question about it on the main portion of the return, but it could easily be buried in the "adjustments" section.

TurboTax doesn't ask - so I'm not telling.

Heck, I've tried to get my "state IRS" to tell me what my late fees are on prior tax returns for years - there's a box you check to have them calculate the penalty. I called them again earlier this year over it. They seem to have little clue as to how to track the taxes we are paying, much less come after a small fish like myself.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (5, Informative)

cciardi (549281) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763591)

NewEgg put the onus on the NY taxpayer. On a NYS Income tax return form you're supposed to report the amount of any items you bought out of NYS which you didn't pay sales tax on. And you're supposed to then add the sales tax based on that line. Dont yell at me, just letting you know that its the NYS taxpayers responsibility.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24764063)

youre right there. that is why i left that blank. the forms do nothing to explain it clearly. i bought a sweatshirt in MI when i went home for the holidays; do i have to pay a tax to wear it in NY? that is hard to get my head around.

NY's use tax is pretty shameless, but i like the taxman in general. i dont mind paying income/property taxes to my state and the feds to provide services and keep the country "safe." sure they blow it all on hookers and golf trips, but the idea is there.

i dont get the anti-tax crowd on /. like tjstork down at the bottom. we're talking about commerce taxes and state tax and he's talking about loony-toons grover norquist stuff. if the feds can't tax, how will we afford to build monuments? won't somebody please think of the monuments?

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Informative)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763643)

Except, you do have to pay sales tax if you buy something out of state.

It's just that if you buy something out of state, the store isn't obligated to collect the sales tax. The purchaser is supposed to declare the item and pay it later to their state.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

evilkasper (1292798) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763893)

As much as I commend anyone or any business/org for standing up and fighting laws and policies that are inherently wrong; I think they are going about it the wrong way. This issue is not likely to die easily and could have a huge impact on web commerce. That said while what Newegg is doing is great for PR it could very well bite their .... also it very much looks like the "use tax" is abusing the system and taking advantage of a loop hole to allow states to tax what is supposed to be federal domain. Then again all this is just MHO, as I am not a lawyer or an expert on tax law.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763987)

The whole problem for being smart humans are kind of gullible.
TAX
Hey I think will get me a police force or just a lot of goons with guns and tell the public it for your safety.
You need to pay me - and every year I will give you less and less that way I can charge you more and more.

If you think you are smart check out freedomainradio.com
arguing about tax is like arguing about whose god is better.

support the troops don't send them back for multiple tours

 

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (5, Informative)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763315)

It is required, in theory, but the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution prevents them from collecting tax on any sales across state boundaries.

They still try to do so, generally under the guise of a "use tax" that's conveniently only applied to purchases from out-of-state, but as far as I'm aware such unequal taxes have never been tested in court. IANAL, of course.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763909)

They have been, at least in the pre-web era. I don't recall the specific name of the case but the upshot of the decision was that as long as the use-tax wasn't discriminatory toward out-of-state purchases (i.e. as long as it closely mirrored the sales tax), it was ok.

Now the real question is what Constitutional grounds does the state of NY have to enforce *Newegg's* collection of this use tax. Is the State of NY going to sue Newegg in Delaware court? This could get quite complicated...

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763323)

It is unconstitutional to charge sales tax for goods that are sold in another state. What you are referring to is called a "use tax" which is a way that some states have gotten around that pesky constitution. Not all states with sales taxes have a use tax.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (5, Informative)

CXI (46706) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763357)

Basically states claim that if a retailer has a physical presence in the state they must collect sales tax. If they do not have a physical presence they do (or did not) have to collect the tax although technically the individual doing the purchasing was supposed to have sent the tax themselves to their own state. That's called "use tax" and is starting to become something more states are getting picky about collecting. Here's a longer explanation: http://articles.bplans.com/index.php/business-articles/running-an-online-business/tax-on-internet-sales/ [bplans.com]

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763585)

In the end, I think there's going to be an epic battle between consumer and civil advocacy groups and states over SSUTA and similar plans to collect sales tax on online sales. The 'use tax' law is clearly an attempt by states to levy taxes on interstate transactions (commerce between and among the states) and the Constitution squarely places that power in the hands of Congress exclusively.

These use taxes have never been challenged in court and if states push much harder, I'm betting they will be.

Congress will 'fix' it (2, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763665)

Then it will go to Congress and they will pass new laws allowing these taxes. The current Congress never met a tax it didn't like.

Re:Congress will 'fix' it (2, Insightful)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763955)

There has never been a Congress that met a tax it didn't like. Check out the history of the income tax in the US. It was imposed twice and struck down on Constitutional grounds before the 16th Amendment was ratified.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763379)

The problem is arising from the fact that people are arguing that the state of New York has no right to tax sales from a party outside the state. So, if Newegg were based in NY, they'd still be collecting the tax from people, but as they're not, they're taking the stance that it's unfair for their customers to get taxed by NY.

I'll admit, I'm a bit taxed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763543)

Guess it's a question of who benefits from New York resources? NewEgg really doesn't use any State Resources so they shouldn't be taxed. New York customers benefit from buying from NewEgg so they should be taxed. Customers don't want to pay, so now what? Basically NewEgg should send a record of NY customers who have bought from them for the fiscal year and the state bills the customers directly. Moving the problem of enforcement and collection were it should be...on the states.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit taxed. (1)

b96miata (620163) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763629)

I have a bit of a problem with vendors sending my information to people I did not request them to. Actually, I lied - it's more than a bit.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (5, Interesting)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763387)

No, that's exactly it. It save newegg the effort, and also increases their business from customers who intend to avoid paying the tax themselves.

It will even increase business from customers who DO intend to pay what they owe for 2 reasons:

1) Something you will owe later doesn't FEEL as costly to many people as something you have to pay now.

2) Many states (I'm not a new yorker, so I don't know if this applies to them) understand the difficulty in tracking your sales, and offer a flat tax option. If you intend to pay this way, then it's sort of like an all you can eat buffet. Once you've paid the flat rate, it's in your best interest to find as many retailers as you can that don't collect tax.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763593)

Hmm, New York has always been a bit bizarre about taxes. I remember when they were sending people to New Jersey shopping malls [nytimes.com] to photograph the license plates of people who were buying things in New Jersey to avoid the high New York state sales tax.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763975)

Hmm, New York has always been a bit bizarre about taxes.

They're not bizarre; they're just greedy for every dollar they can get their grubby little paws on. Just remember that the only difference between the government and the Mafia is that the government controls the schools.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

aculeus (21460) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763877)

Michigan has the same flat use tax option, and it's pretty low, like $20. It saves a lot of sales tax if you make a significant amount of out-of-state purchases. All you have to do is check the "I don't remember" box and hand over your twenty bucks and you're free and clear.

It is like every other tax. (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763409)

If consumers, for that matter income earners, had a true understanding of their tax load they would be up in arms. It is one thing to ask for this, that, and the other thing, from your government when you don't know the cost.

So governments do what they do best, they hide the tax. What is the number way to hide the real tax from the taxpayer? Embed it. This means hide it in the cost of goods and services. Lets use an oil company like Exxon for fun, after all its accused of having WINFALL profits. In 2006, Exxon's EBT (earnings before tax) was $67.4 billion, it paid $27.9 billion in taxes (41.4% tax rate), and its NIAT (net income after tax), or profit, was $39.5 billion. So, where does that 27.9 BILLION dollars come from. The taxpayer. Exxon merely wrote the check for all the dollars it collected from you and me to pay it.

The politicians win on every front here, they can hide the true cost of the tax load on the American worker and vilify any corporation that makes big numbers as being against the poor, downtrodden, hungry, or my favorite "children".

Ignorance and envy are the two greatest weapons the politicians employ and from watching the current elections it really pays off

Re:It is like every other tax. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763479)

I'm not sure we should be taking tax advice and information from someone who doesn't know how to spell windfall.

Re:It is like every other tax. (3, Insightful)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763501)

But you're missing the point: Exxon will be collecting $67.4 billion from you and me, *irrespective* of whether they are taxed at 40% or 4%. In fact, the tax represents money coming *back* to the people, and not a tax *on* the people. Lower the taxes on Exxon, and there will be less tax revenue with which to fund public profits.

Re:It is like every other tax. (1, Insightful)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763789)

Actually, no, they won't. If Exxon collects $60 billion this year, and pays $4 billion in taxes, they damn well will be collecting $64 billion in revenue next year. They have a product which a lot of people can't go without, and can charge whatever they want (up to a point, but we're far from that point yet).

Re:It is like every other tax. (1)

marco.antonio.costa (937534) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763829)

But it is a tax on the people. How much would you pay for oil if taxes weren't there? How much would you pay on the goods you buy? How much more would your employer pay you, if there wasn't a tax burden? I think you're missing the point here too.

Taxing is taking the money away from people, which I'm sure the people would and could spend much more wisely. And those tycoons at Exxon are people too, you know. :)

Re:It is like every other tax. (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763895)

An oil producer like Exxon is a bad example since there isn't much surplus capacity at present, and the demand curve is inelastic (even when the price goes up, people don't buy much less of it). So you're pretty much right - even a lower tax rate on Exxon probably wouldn't change their net revenue much.

In most situations, though, a lower corporate tax rate would reduce prices for consumers across the board. Suppose Company X and Company Y both sell a product for $14 (with no direct sales tax) which has a production cost of $10. They pay $2 in corporate taxes. If the tax is eliminated, then according to the law of supply and demand, the companies will increase supply and cut prices until a new equilibrium price is reached (somewhere between $12 and $14). The $2 in previous corporate taxes will be split between the people paying lower prices and the company.

So essentially, you're both right, in different proportions depending on the situation.

Re:It is like every other tax. (0)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763947)

But you're missing the point: Exxon will be collecting $67.4 billion from you and me, *irrespective* of whether they are taxed at 40% or 4%.

No they wouldn't. They could certainly try. But there are too many oil companies, and lowering taxes would lower costs for all of them. All Shell (for example) would have to do to get Exxon's customers is lower their price when Exxon doesn't. It's a little thing called "competition".

In fact, the tax represents money coming *back* to the people, and not a tax *on* the people. Lower the taxes on Exxon, and there will be less tax revenue with which to fund public profits.

LOL. That's just bullshit. Business taxes don't go back to the people. They, like all other taxes, are wasted on government bullshit like welfare, social security, the "war on terror" and "Homeland Security".

Re:It is like every other tax. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24764089)

Nope. OP is right

Even in a monopoly situation (unlike the oil industry) decreases in taxes mean more money to the consumer at the end of the day. The business actually maximizes their revenue by charging less.

The prices you pay today are actually artificially increased because of taxes.

Re:It is like every other tax. (1)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 5 years ago | (#24764079)

If consumers, for that matter income earners, had a true understanding of their tax load they would be up in arms.

I completely agree. Think for a moment if employers were not required to take taxes (federal, state, SS, etc...) out of your pay and instead you had to write a check each month to the government. There would be riots in the streets about how much money is taken, spent, and what it's spent on.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Interesting)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763417)

Could someone explain, isn't it required by (most) states' laws that individuals pay sales tax on goods purchased?

Yes, but when you purchase something from out of state, the normally-unintelligible mess of tax laws become even more convoluted.

Many states have a "use" tax, which applies to items purchased from out-of-state by state residents. The burden of paying it rests on the individual, however, not the merchant (and very, very few people actually pay it except on items they can't avoid reporting, such as cars and boats).

The real issue here involves what constitutes a "presence" in a given state, as well as where the transaction actually occurs. Most states would like to claim the transaction occurs at the location of the buyer, but so far the federal government hasn't let them get away with that. More commonly, states limit their attempts to collect to vendors who have some physical presence in that state - Meaning they have some power to make life miserable for noncomplying vendors.

So then the question changes to "what constitutes a physical presence?". The largest online merchants such as Amazon have warehouses all over the country, but don't ever actually sell anything on-site, they just ship from there. So does that count as a retail presence, or not?

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (4, Informative)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763569)

So then the question changes to "what constitutes a physical presence?". The largest online merchants such as Amazon have warehouses all over the country, but don't ever actually sell anything on-site, they just ship from there. So does that count as a retail presence, or not?

And just to make things more difficult, the NY law in question isn't even talking about warehouses. It's talking about affiliates. NewEgg is located in California, but they have an affiliate program. I'm an affiliate of theirs and I live in NY. Does that make NewEgg have a physical location in New York state? Of course not. I'm not an employee of NewEgg, I'm just an affiliate. I post a link to NewEgg on my website and get a small kickback for any sales that it generates. The website that I run is hosted by a company in Texas. Does that mean that NewEgg has a "physical presence" in Texas also and should pay Texas sales tax? The whole "affiliate = physical presence" argument is just a money grab. Then again, we shouldn't be surprised. This is the state that also taxes telecommuters on their full income even if they only work inside NY for a short period of time. (See the story of Scott Smallwood: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/business/businessspecial2/20tax.html [nytimes.com] )

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763601)

I guess what I'm asking is: is this whole problem arising from the retailers' desire not to be burdened with the logistics of collecting tax, and the consumers' desire to evade the tax? Or is there something else I'm missing here?

There's a new wrinkle here. By law, states have the authority to force retailers to collect sales taxes only if the retailer has a physical presence in the state. So if Company X has its headquarters in, say, Texas, it has to collect tax from customers in Texas. However, since it has no presence in Florida, Florida does not have the authority to force it to collect sales tax.

The grey area is with referrals, or "affiliates." What happens if I get sales leads from someone in New York? You might argue that I thus have a presence in the state. That's certainly the case that New York is making. They're being pretty aggressive, too - they claim that if I have a single affiliate in New York, that all sales to New Yorkers - regardless of whether they're from affiliates or not - are taxable.

Of course, as always people are generally liable for paying "use tax" on out of state purchases, because the company can't be forced to collect it. This is New York's way of redefining what it means to have a "presence" in a state.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/01/amazon-sues-new-york-state-to-void-sales-tax-rules/

Note: I am not a lawyer, on message boards, TV, or otherwise. This post does not constitute advice of a legal, medical, real estate, plumbing, scientific, religious, or other basis.

Re:I'll admit, I'm a bit confused (1)

canUbeleiveIT (787307) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763951)

By law, states have the authority to force retailers to collect sales taxes only if the retailer has a physical presence in the state. So if Company X has its headquarters in, say, Texas, it has to collect tax from customers in Texas. However, since it has no presence in Florida, Florida does not have the authority to force it to collect sales tax.

I'm surprised that so many have difficulty understanding this. It really goes back to one of the most basic premises that fueled the American Revolution: no taxation without representation. In this case, if the company has no presence in a particular state, it does not derive any benefit from being represented by any governing body of that state, therefore that state has no right to tax said company.

It's actually quite simple. The good thing about it is that it will take a Constitutional Amendment to change it. That is, if we actually have any rights left.

The Register copy and paste? (5, Interesting)

two_stripe (584918) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763265)

Interesting to see that part of the article summary is a direct copy and paste from theregister.co.uk and not a link back to the original article? [channelregister.co.uk]

"After careful review and consideration, we are pleased to inform you that we have stopped collecting New York sales tax, effective August 21, 2008," reads an email the company tossed at customers late last week, including at least one loyal Reg reader. "This decision was driven by your direct and candid feedback and our continued commitment to you as our valued customers."

Re:The Register copy and paste? (5, Funny)

ojintoad (1310811) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763307)

How can I say you must be new here when your uid is lower than mine by more than half a million?

Uh oh! (3, Funny)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763311)

New York estimates that the provision will generate $50 million in revenue for the state in the fiscal year. Tax experts look to other cash-strapped states to adopt similar measures if the New York law holds up in court.

Boy, I wish I could raise $50 million without providing any additional benefits to anyone. Is there anyway to donate to Amazon/Newegg's legal defense team? : )

-Grey [silverclipboard.com]

Re:Uh oh! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763391)

Boy, I wish I could raise $50 million without providing any additional benefits to anyone.

You can, but generally speaking, doing so would violate federal law. It's called 'racketeering'. As for how to do it, well, you'd probably have to ask John Gotti, Jr. Or perhaps the **AA.

"This decision was driven by your feedback." (4, Insightful)

Schezar (249629) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763321)

"This decision was driven by your direct and candid feedback and our continued commitment to you as our valued customers."

This is obviously just a publicity statement. There is no way in the world a large corporation would assume the massive risk of defying a law like this on the advice of its customers. Something else precipitated this.

Most likely, the law department in the company examined the law, and then the risk management division (or whoever it is: I have no idea how Newegg is managed) decided that the risk was worth taking. PR, seeing an opportunity for, well, PR, made up a fluff statement about how the dear customers were the reason.

Not that I'm complaining.

Not necessarily defying law. (0)

RandoX (828285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763325)

Just because they're not collecting it doesn't mean that NY isn't still getting their cut from Newegg. I wonder if Newegg has enough of a markup to pay 8% (or whatever) out of pocket and still make a profit. If not, guess who's actually paying NY taxes? That's right. You are.

Yeah right (1)

Apoorv Khatreja (1263418) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763339)

Over there, it makes a news on Slashdot. Here in India, we've been doing this for years.

Re:Yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24764071)

Well, yes.

Here in Texas, we've also not been paying New York taxes for years. I'm not sure what your point is. I'm pretty sure we never have, in fact.

Use tax = sales tax and you are supposed to pay (2, Informative)

dangermen (248354) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763341)

YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE PAYING TAXES ON ON-LINE PURCHASES. THEY'RE CALLED USE TAXES.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_tax [wikipedia.org]

Here is the deal:
- If you don't pay them, your state can send you nasty grams in the mail saying "We see you have filed zero dollars in use taxes, please pay them." These notices are fairly common. IOW, the state tax departments are saying "Look, we aren't stupid, you're buying stuff on line, pay your tax". Now who here wants to keep records of the crap they buy JUST so you can pay use tax at the end of the year?
- With a mandated sales tax, it means YOU don't have to keep records for paying end-of-year taxes. They just add it on to your purchase like any other state(if your state has a sales tax). I don't know about you but I'd much rather pay the friggin tax up front then worry about the stupid EOY paperwork.

One thing to make life easier for consumers AND businesses: only allow one tax rate per state. example: Wisconsin has a moronic tax system where every county can charge differing rates something up to like 1/2% on top of whatever the state charges. Some counties are 5%, some are 5.5%, or like 5.25%. So to make it easier on on-line retailers, just legislate single tax rates per state for those that have a sales tax. End this moronic madness now.

Re:Use tax = sales tax and you are supposed to pay (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763503)

With a mandated sales tax, it means YOU don't have to keep records for paying end-of-year taxes.

No, it means we can't ignore use taxes as an unconstitutional violation of interstate commerce. Pay if you want, but few do - And suggesting we make it "painless" by having the merchants handle the tax completely misses (and actually hides) the point that we shouldn't pay such taxes in the first place.



End this moronic madness now

And there, we agree (in word if not in spirit) - Let's entirely do away with the single most regressive taxes we have. Personally, I think we should also do away with "withholding" as well, and make everyone actually cough up $10-30k every April 15th - Watch how fast we get serious tax reform when people realize how much they actually pay, rather than merely bitching about it as a mostly-meaningless "rate" they don't really feel thanks to the government slowly boiling the frog.

Re:Use tax = sales tax and you are supposed to pay (1)

Acron (1253166) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763545)

Wait, let me make sure I'm understanding you, you think we should pay sales tax on every transaction rather than endure snail mail notices we can ignore? How exactly is the state tax dept going to prove I bought something without paying the use tax?

Re:Use tax = sales tax and you are supposed to pay (2, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763563)

Also note that some states have a minimum purchase amount before you need to worry about paying use taxes (not that any of you worry). For instance in DC, you only need to pay use taxes if you purchased more than $400 worth of items from catalogs or online in the previous year.

Re:Use tax = sales tax and you are supposed to pay (4, Interesting)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763587)

Your rates in Wisconsin is just the half of it...

Towns in AR are incorporated around county land. The town has 1% added to already 5% making 6% - FOR THE TOWN LAND. Post Office makes these two lands appear as 1 so the only choice is charging the 6% for the county land. Military Bases and Parks also fall into these traps.

Washington state has MTA the follow the boundaries elementary school districts. Again you do not know for a given address if it is in or out school district.

Mobile AL has MTA so EVERY postal code two rates.

Texas has multiple rates that can add up to 3% over the state rate, but they are added in order so that if the full rate can be used (ie going over 3% total) then it skipped and you add the next rate.

Memphis Area has sales tax rate ONLY for the first $2500 then it drops to 0.

In most states Sales Tax is charged at the point of consumption (ie Where is the Cash Register). But that can also mean "Where is the customer's mailbox" since the goods are being delievered to customer, no consumption occurred until delivery. Texas just changed theirs back to be where the business is located, to help delivery companies (like flower) from having to figure out all the local tax rates.

Even the large tax rate companies are not being of help. They need a system that does Address Correction and Tax Rate following geo-boundaries.
     

Re:Use tax = sales tax and you are supposed to pay (1)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763669)

Right, but those extra 1/2% sales taxes are what fund local government projects. I doubt the people in the rest of Wisconsin want to pay extra tax for new playgrounds in Green Bay.

Re:Use tax = sales tax and you are supposed to pay (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763837)

Indeed. My parents used to do all their shopping in Green Bay, but when they raised their sales tax rate by .5% (to pay for the renovations to Lambeau Field), they took their business to another county, because they didn't support using taxpayer money for this project. Wisconsin's tax system is more complex, it's true, but it allows a big advantage in being able to have some choice about whether or not to pay for certain government projects you disagree with.

Re:Use tax = sales tax and you are supposed to pay (1)

kmkznobeikoku (1319847) | more than 5 years ago | (#24764039)

The state of Alabama may be worse, IIRC they start with a state tax rate (4% at the time), and then assess a county rate (which could DOUBLE the sales tax) for some counties, and to add to that, a city/ community tax rate is assessed. These fees are levied on all retail commerce, whether it originates within the state, or across the borders into other states, at the time of sale. You CAN get a partial reimbursement at the end of the year when you file your state taxes (was around 4% when I last lived there) provided you fall below a certain income level, but the process of determining that reimbursement is anything but simple, you have to use their formula on the form, and show the computational process used to derive that figure on the tax form (no decimals, incidentally, they wanted simplified fractions). This may have since changed, but I doubt it has changed much. Oh, and BTW, you'll owe income taxes to the state on as little as $3000 worth of annual income, regardless of filing status. Welfare? Unemployment? Social Security? Guess what, that gets taxed by the state, too. After tolerating 3 years of this, my family and I got the H*** out of that forsaken state as soon as we could. Moved, literally, on about $200, stayed with other family for about a month out west.

And this is good for local businesses exactly how? (3, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763385)

[quote]Overstock.com dropped all of its New York affiliates[/quote]

This measure was supposed to boost local businesses and lower unemployment. Do you think if Amazon and NewEgg drop theirs, the $50m in revenue will be paid out in unemployment?

I am disgusted by the government of my state. I moved from PA to NY for a better job, but literally everything is higher taxed and more expensive. The taxes don't make any sense either. I live near Rochester, NY. Depending on the locality you're in, you can pay 6% (Henrietta) to 10% (Greece) taxes on a variety of things but if you send a letter it's all Rochester, NY. And then there is the paper store, I mean government agencies. Everything needs a permit, paper, registration or a tax. You can't get a single piece of paper without paying at least $10 for it.

Re:And this is good for local businesses exactly h (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763857)

Welcome to NY!

That'll be $10 please.

Re:And this is good for local businesses exactly h (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763933)

This measure was supposed to boost local businesses and lower unemployment.
If people were paying their Use Tax, then this measure would be unnecessary. If people paid their Use Tax, then the tax paid on an item built in New York would be the same as one built in California, and the only competition would be based on efficiency of the business. As it stands now, every other state has an unfair advantage over New York in the amount of the New York tax rate simply because the buyers do not pay Use Tax.
If the foreign companies charge sales tax for New York, that also evens the playing field, however, New York has no jurisdiction to require out-of-state vendors to charge sales tax. So they are pretty much stuck with the Use Tax. Also, the Use Tax does not violate interstate commerce laws. It merely makes the playing field level for in-state versus out-of-state.

Re:And this is good for local businesses exactly h (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 5 years ago | (#24764043)

I am disgusted by the government of my state. I moved from PA to NY for a better job, but literally everything is higher taxed and more expensive. The taxes don t make any sense either. I live near Rochester, NY. Depending on the locality you re in, you can pay 6% Henrietta to 10% Greece taxes on a variety of things but if you send a letter it s all Rochester, NY. And then there is the paper store, I mean government agencies. Everything needs a permit, paper, registration or a tax. You can t get a single piece of paper without paying at least $10 for it.

Meanwhile, downtown Rochester is about to begin a huge parking crunch with the closure of Midtown, and various levels of gov't are chipping in for Ferry Pt. 2 (the Paetec building - even with questions about the company being in existence when it comes time to move in) and Ferry Pt. 3 (Ren Square).

At least with the ferry, they could sell off the boat & recover some of the costs.

I works downtown, park in Midtown, and will start having to go to shady Mortimer St. next week to park. I'm not looking forward to the extra 15-20 minutes of commuting that change will cause, nor the extra personal & property safety risks. Which reminds me, I have to strip my car of anything valuable this weekend before someone else decides to "help" me with it.

Re:And this is good for local businesses exactly h (1)

zehaeva (1136559) | more than 5 years ago | (#24764093)

You know when I first heard about NYS trying to play with the definition of physical presence my first thought was, "well just drop all affiliates in NYS, problem solved". that way no real money flows to NYS AND they don't get any taxes. It doesn't hurt the online retailer any, just NYS. They actually, overall, loose money from the state when enacting this law, if all the online retailers do as Overstock.com has done.

why does not one single politician sit down and think, "if this goes through are there any really easy ways around it? if so do these simple work arounds hurt us more than help?". If but one person thought this and said something to all the others, I can't help but think that this law would have never passed

And all you guys pine for Obama?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763453)

You cheer when a tax is avoided, then want to go out and vote for someone who wants to slap a huge regressive tax on a basic necessity: gasoline.

WTF?

Re:And all you guys pine for Obama?!?! (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763603)

It's a sad thing when a mother has to spend her golden years sitting in a pine tree.

Dear IRS, (5, Funny)

Rie Beam (632299) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763461)

After careful review and consideration, we are pleased to inform you that I have decided to stop paying my Federal and State tax, effective August 27, 2008.

This decision was driven by your direct and candid feedback and our continued commitment to you as our valued collection agency.

Re:Dear IRS, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763697)

After careful review and consideration, we are pleased to inform you that I have decided to stop paying my Federal and State tax, effective August 27, 2008.

This decision was driven by your direct and candid feedback and our continued commitment to you as our valued collection agency.

Dear valued tax payer. We'd like to offer you a free vacation to the Caribbean. Each room has a copy of the Kuran and all the water you can drink. Our travel agents will be arriving shortly to whisk you away to your tropical island adventure. They'll be two large men in afordable suits and dark glasses. The black hood is keep the element of surprise when you see your new island home for the first time.

Bad timing (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763523)

Crap, I ordered a lot of stuff right in that time period and I'm in NYC.

But yeah Newegg ! Tax resistance rocks.

But they still (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763531)

Don't ship to other countries :[

Any tax revolt is a good one. (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763559)

How ironic it is, that, we hear a bunch of liberals bitching about those terrible people on Wall Street, in New York, and it turns out those terrible people on Wall Street took such a beating that the state is looking at a nearly billion dollar tax short fall. Thus, in New York we learn the ultimately failing of progressive taxation, just as we have learned nationally. If the rich do not make any money, the government is screwed.

I'm sick of hearing everyone try and talk about increasing taxes as "providing revenue". It's an insult to compare the activities of government to the activities of the private sector. Government is basically a collection of pie in the sky power mongers that use the power of the gun, cops directed by the legislature, to impose their financial will on people. By contrast, all a private company do is offer a good or a service in return, and thus they are compelled to offer something back.

New York, in particular, is disgusting. They have a tax policy that reflects decades of liberal orthodoxy and the stupidity of the results just staggers the mind. I mean, they raise taxes on cigarettes, and are suddenly horrified to find that people do not buy cigarettes in New York. Now, what do you think the enlightened liberals do up there? Do you think they set the tax at a more reasonable level? No... they call out the cops and pass even -more- laws designed to try and ban people from cigarettes from out of state.

Now, of course, they reach out and are suing, again, with the barrel of the legislative gun, trying to sue someone outside of the state, like a crab or a cancer spreading and grasping desperately for any piece of loot that it can steal.... and they call this revenue.

So NY wants to collect tax from the whole USA (4, Funny)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763605)

Its not called the Empire state for nothing!

Re:Any tax revolt is a good one. (1)

jussiam (756459) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763851)

I mean, they raise taxes on cigarettes, and are suddenly horrified to find that people do not buy cigarettes in New York. Now, what do you think the enlightened liberals do up there? Do you think they set the tax at a more reasonable level? No... they call out the cops and pass even -more- laws designed to try and ban people from cigarettes from out of state.

Hmm, I would think that it is good thing if people quit smoking? Maybe they didn't want to collect more money with this tax, what if they tried to decrease smoking? Price is one way to alter peoples behaviour.

But I'm from Finland, the promised land of progressive taxing (where mixture of socialism and capitalism actually works), so I guess I'm a bit biased ;-)

Re:Any tax revolt is a good one. (0)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763861)

Hasn't Reganomics been pretty firmly debunked by now?

New York is in a budget crisis, not because taxes are too high now, but because they were far too low for decades, and the state's infrastructure was left to rot. Now we're dealing with the effects (80 year old steam pipes exploding in NYC, and a power grid that can't support itself), and the costs to fix the problems are going to be high.

Extremely high taxes for the rich also aren't going to prevent them from getting wealthier. Sure, it makes them grumble, but even if you take a whopping 50% off of a $2 million paycheck, you're still left with a hell of a lot of dough.

On the other hand, if your tax cuts for the wealthy really do cause them to spend considerably more, this could in turn induce a wave of inflation, which would absolutely devastate the middle and lower classes.

Re:Any tax revolt is a good one. (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 5 years ago | (#24764061)

How ironic it is, that, we hear a bunch of liberals bitching about those terrible people on Wall Street, in New York, and it turns out those terrible people on Wall Street took such a beating that the state is looking at a nearly billion dollar tax short fall.

Yeah, Wall Street never does poorly in a nationwide recession...

It's more than just user feedback (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763577)

http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=108986 [abestweb.com]

"A few months ago, New York State made changes to its tax law which potentially require out-of-state internet retailers to collect and remit sales taxes to New York State.

Since then, New York State has issused a memorandum indicating that an internet retailer would be presumed not to need to collect New York sales tax as long as: (1) its contracts with its New York-based affiliates prohibit the affiliates from engaging in solicitation activities which refer New York customers to the retailer, and (2) the New York-based affiliates sign an annual statement confirming that they have not solicited New York customers for the retailer. ..."

Better for all developers (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763675)

separate state, federal, regional taxes and shit are causing a lot of problems with ecommerce software, wasting valuable development hours, for both developers and their ecommerce clients. tax goddamn income on a reasonable level, and get rid of all conditional/regional taxes, and make both commerce and accounting/taxing processes easier dammit.

This is a new law? (1)

subtraho (187805) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763703)

I live in NJ and NewEgg has been charging me sales tax (since they have a warehouse in Edison) for years now.

Re:This is a new law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24764017)

I live in NJ and NewEgg has been charging me sales tax (since they have a warehouse in Edison) for years now.

That's the old law, which makes retailers collect sales tax when they have a physical presence in the state. The new law says that they also have to collect the sales tax when they have "affiliates" in the state. As an example, Amazon has affiliates (people that Amazon pays a commission for sales resulting from links with a referral marker for the affiliate) in all fifty states.

Traditionally, Amazon (and others) have avoided putting physical presences (warehouses in the Amazon case) in California and New York for exactly that reason.

This also makes things easier on third party (marketplace) sellers who are in New York and sell to people in New York. Traditionally, they've been required to collect sales tax, but there was no way to do this in Amazon's system. These sellers had to pay the tax out of pocket.

Scary. (1)

DoctorDyna (828525) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763787)

Are they really trying to change consumer purchases tax law to take the burden from the seller and place it on the buyer? It would seem that it would be painful if NY's attitude became the norm. Could you imagine this being the last thing you see while waiting for your credit card to process at an online retailer:

"Using the provided Address and zip code, it was determined that the tax agency responsible for collecting taxes on this purchase is (county, state). A copy of this transaction has been forwarded to (county, state). Have a nice day."

At least for me, it would become convenient to start shopping at brick and mortar stores again.

New York Sales Tax is not easy to administer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24763795)

Vendors must collect and report NY Sales tax for the state, counties, local jurisdictions and sometimes special projects based on physical location. Sounds simple? Consider the fact that the mailing (delivery) address is based on proximity to a local post office--not the actual location of the address. So address "A" may appear to be in jurisdiction "X" but don't count on it. You have to look it up using a system hosted by NY (which works most of the time). The pesky sales tax auditors will penalize you (in dollars) for not getting it right.

Check this out: http://www8.nystax.gov/STLR/stlrHome [nystax.gov]

Tax free states? (1)

chromakey (300498) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763825)

Why aren't more of these large internet companies located in a state like New Hampshire where there's no sales tax? The current status quo is that you only have to collect sales tax from the customers in the state where you reside. So in a sales tax free state, you wouldn't have to collect anything at all.

Businesses don't pay tax (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763839)

The customers do. The business should be held responsible to declare the taxes owed as a condition of their license or corporate charter. And the only fair tax is the VAT. It's the simplest and requires the least paperwork, much to the bureaucrats' chagrin. And since bureaucrats make the rules, it will never happen and explains why the states constantly invent new ways to collect more taxes and lay the paperwork on us.

NY taxes (5, Interesting)

theflakes (1106795) | more than 5 years ago | (#24763963)

I live in upstate NY as well and I see the tremendous issues NY has with attracting good paying jobs. NY is unable to attract new business' therefore they look to supplement their revenue by taxing the business' they can't attract here even if said business has no physical presence in the state. NY government has this view that they are entitled to a piece of the action. They are not. If they can't attract the business here they lose and should lose. The NY government is what is getting in the way of business' coming into NY and entrepreneurs starting new business'. I'm afraid you will see more of what Overstock did and thus hurt the NY economy even more. We in NY have politicians completely out of touch with the reality of the business world.

I find it amazing that when a government raises taxes they think the rich will pay it. The rich will just raise the cost of the goods they are selling accordingly in most cases.

Obligatory Car Analogy (3, Informative)

Ozeroc (1146595) | more than 5 years ago | (#24764047)

sort of...

    I do know that if you buy a car in a state with a sales tax of, say 3%. And move to NY a year or so later. They're going to want the difference (4%) when you go to register your car. So when you think your registration's going to cost $100* and it ends up costing $1000, it's a bit of a shock.

*Not sure what a registration costs these days. I've been living in Europe for the past 6 years. w00t!

Oz

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