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Calling B.S. On Amazon's Taxation Arguments

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the didn't-do-it-nobody-saw-me dept.

Businesses 762

theodp writes "Over at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michael Mazerov carefully picks apart Amazon's arguments against collecting sales taxes, arguing that they simply do not withstand scrutiny. While Amazon officials say collecting sales tax in every state would be excessively burdensome, Mazerov notes the e-tailer already collects sales tax in virtually every state for numerous other companies that sell on its website. Mazerov also finds it disingenuous for Amazon to argue that it should not have to help support public services in states in which it has no physical presence when the company fails to support public services in most of the states in which it does have a physical presence. Finally, Mazerov isn't buying Amazon's argument that its opposition to collecting sales tax is not driven by a desire to gain a price advantage over competitors, which he finds at odds with the company's own actions and SEC filings. By claiming sales-tax immunity, says Mazerov, Amazon has enjoyed an unfair 5%-10% price advantage over local retailers, while also depriving states and localities of hundreds of millions of dollars of legally due revenue each year."

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762 comments

Use Tax (5, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133594)

It's already the law in some states to report purchases that you have not paid sales tax on, called a Use Tax. If you purchase something and Amazon does not collect sales tax, you are supposed to report this directly and pay it directly to the government.

I think the real problem is that since nobody does this, they expect Amazon to do the legwork.

Realistically, it is a businesses' job to collect tax for the state it currently resides in. It would be an undue burden for just about any business to get the workings of every other state's tax just to do business, say, like a phone order!

Sure, amazon is big enough, but that still crushes the little guys with a hefty start-up capital requirement, and a full time tax guy to figure this out.

What they need is a disclaimer telling customers that they may need to report the use-tax, and give a hyperlink to more info on that.

Re:Use Tax (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133638)

I think the real problem is that since nobody does this, they expect Amazon to do the legwork.

I actually do pay use tax, and the fact that no one else does really makes me feel like a chump.

Re:Use Tax (1, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133776)

I actually do pay use tax, and the fact that no one else does really makes me feel like a chump.

Hate to say this, but you may be the only one in the country who pays use tax.

Personally, the subject has never come up for me, since I never, ever, ever (really, swear to Ceiling Cat) buy anything on the internet....

Re:Use Tax (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133860)

From what I recall, filing my state (Maine) taxes online defaults to paying a small estimated use tax due to purchases on the internet. In your mind, if you uncheck the box, you open yourself up to a much-more-likely audit. Because of that, I think a lot of people just pay the estimated use tax. So I think your analysis of "the only one in the country" is wrong.

Re:Use Tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134232)

I wonder if Maine does this sneaky crap in the justice system as well. E.g... don't uncheck this box to opt in to the prison system...

Re:Use Tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133806)

Do you not buy much online, or are you just extremely organized? Frankly I don't even care about the money part much, there's just no frakking way I'm going to keep track of everything I order to see how much I supposedly owe.

Re:Use Tax (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133968)

You actually don't have to. If the amount of out-of-state purchases is under a certain amount (consult your state tax guide), you don't always have to even declare the purchases. Also, many states offer a "I don't have time to keep all the stupid receipts" option to pay a fixed amount (as long as you didn't have any large purchases that year, and you're pretty sure the total is below a certain threshold).

Re:Use Tax (2, Funny)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134012)

I actually do pay use tax, and the fact that no one else does really makes me feel like a chump.

I'm sure the IRS does a little happy dance every time they see that someone actually paid their use tax! At least you should never ever be audited.

Re:Use Tax (4, Funny)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134112)

You're not thinking like the IRS. Their line of thinking would be as follows: "Hurm...they are paying use tax. Must be trying to hide something else."

Re:Use Tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134202)

What does the IRS have to do with state sales taxes and why would the IRS be happy the states got some money?

Re:Use Tax (1)

radish (98371) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134086)

I pay the "percentage of income" version, because it comes out to a tiny amount compared to actual sales tax on all the stuff I buy online (I basically never use b&m stores anymore). Yes I could just declare nothing, but I don't feel like dealing with accusations of tax evasion. The only time I ever actually declared for Use Tax was when I had a single item over the $5k limit.

Re:Use Tax (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133670)

How does the use tax work for things like yard sales or local craigslist? Not trolling just wondering.

Re:Use Tax (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133742)

If you purchased out of state or without paying sales tax, you have to report it directly. That being said, if you're purchasing within the state, the seller must collect the sales tax, and should be.

Re:Use Tax (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133808)

Even on things like yard sales though? That doesn't seem right, I mean they're not a retailer, they're just exercising the right of first sale.

Re:Use Tax (2, Informative)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133852)

Yup. I used to live in NY and we had taxes out the ass! The prudent yard sellers collected sales tax, though most people don't bother.

Re:Use Tax (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134210)

Depends on the state and how many yard sales you have, many only require sales taxes after the first one in a year.

The idea is to keep you from running a small business on your lawn.

Re:Use Tax (1, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133768)

Realistically, it is a businesses' job to collect tax for the state it currently resides in. It would be an undue burden for just about any business to get the workings of every other state's tax just to do business, say, like a phone order!

If it's an "undue burden" to them then they should just sell in their home states. It would be as much an "undue burden" for me to open a bar, since I can't afford one. It's the same thing. If Amazon can't afford to collect taxes for fifty states, someone else will.

I call BS anyway. There are only 50, is it too much to have some schmoe simply look the damned tax up on a sheet of paper? WTF?

but that still crushes the little guys with a hefty start-up capital requirement

What I said about buying a bar. If you can't afford to start a business, that's not the business to be in.

Why Is God Hidden?

He's not, unless you're avoiding him.

Re:Use Tax (3, Informative)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133908)

Counties and cities have their own sales taxes, so a state lookup or even a zip code lookup wouldn't cut it. You'd need to know what municipality the buyer is in, then get state, county, and municipality tax rates.

Re:Use Tax (2, Informative)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133934)

t would be as much an "undue burden" for me to open a bar

No, when opening a bar, you only need to know the laws relating to your bar in that locale. If you open up a bar in Seattle, you don't need to worry about the laws regarding bars in Ocala, FL.

There are only 50

Yes, there are only 50 states. However, each city might have it's own tax rate. There are a lot more than 50 cities. You would have to have some schmoe look it up for every location, and keep on top of any changes that might happen. Whereas, with your bar example, you only need to keep on top of what the tax rate is for your one location.

Re:Use Tax (2, Informative)

DesertBlade (741219) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133936)

50 states, plus county and city taxes. There are probably well over 2,000 different sales tax rates.

Re:Use Tax (2, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133994)

Only 50? There are hundreds, if not thousands of different sales tax regions in the US.

Re:Use Tax (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134002)

I call BS anyway. There are only 50

I'm not 100% sure this how Amazon would have to do it, but I owned a business in Washington State. You had to pay sales tax based on where in the state you did business. For Washington, there are about 350 different sales tax "districts." And the tax at each one can potentially change every quarter. So it might not just be 50 different tax rates. It could be 100,000 and they could change all the time.

Re:Use Tax (5, Informative)

shawn.fox (461873) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134088)

I call BS anyway. There are only 50, is it too much to have some schmoe simply look the damned tax up on a sheet of paper? WTF?

If only it were so simple. The US sales tax system is a byzantine mess. You have state taxes, city taxes, transit authority taxes, public improvement fees, etc which apply based on where the sale occurred. That is the easy piece though. The difficult part is that the tax rates themselves can be different based off the products. Some products are taxable in one state but not in others. A simple example is plain bottled water which is pretty much untaxed everywhere, and flavored bottled water which is taxable in most states. Then you have tax free holidays where a certain class of products are tax free for 3 days (typically back to school), but it is a different set of days for different areas of the country of course.

To top all that off, cities, states, etc are constantly changing the rules as to which products are taxable and which are not. It is a real pain in the a** to deal with, but all of the national retail chains have to deal with it, so why can't Amazon and the other online retail companies? The best case would be to just have a national sales tax that is the same everywhere instead of the current stupid system. Instead of forcing companies to devote millions of person hours to figuring out what taxes to pay, people could actually be doing something productive.

Re:Use Tax (2, Informative)

non-registered (639880) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134136)

"simply look the damned tax up on a sheet of paper?"

See, now, it's way more complicated than that. Here in Florida, for example, each COUNTY has it's own rate. And we have to charge according to where the BUYER is because that's where they take ownership of the product. And it changes every year. And IIRC, some of the tax is capped to a limit. You really do need a slew of people to deal with the complexity. If they really want to collect taxes like this, what's needed is a single rate for mail order/Internet purchases to make it all palatable.

Re:Use Tax (0, Troll)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134212)

You're an idiot, as evidenced by your belief in a mythical being.

First, the whole sales tax / use tax thing has been decided. Mail order / phone orders don't need to collect, so why do you think amazon should be singled out?

Second, is not just looking at a piece of paper. Ever try collecting sales tax in CA? There's a state, county, and in some cases local sales tax. We have 40 seperate rates for CA ALONE. It sucks time away every month as the rates can also change that quickly. All for a state where WE HAVE NO PHYSICAL PRESENSE. It should be the customers paying use tax, not us collecting sales tax.

Re:Use Tax (4, Informative)

shawn.fox (461873) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133850)

It is unrealistic for every company to figure out what sales tax applies in every state, that is why there is a company that does it for you: Vertex [vertexinc.com]. I recently worked on a project to implement this software for a large retailer. Amazon has far more technical knowledge than the average bricks and mortar retailer, this is no reasonable excuse as to why they cannot pay local sales tax. It is long past time for the online retailers to start paying sales tax just like every other business.

Not having to pay sales tax is one of my primary reasons that I often buy products online. Online retailers already have a lot of advantages for many types of products, there is no reason that they should be subsidized over local retailers.

Re:Use Tax (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133874)

It's already the law in some states to report purchases that you have not paid sales tax on, called a Use Tax. If you purchase something and Amazon does not collect sales tax, you are supposed to report this directly and pay it directly to the government.

Yeah, and every year when I file my New York State taxes I put a big fat zero in that box. Given that my state government has found numerous other ways to put the screws to me (the latest example: everybody has to buy new license plates even though there's nothing wrong with the ones we already have, the state is just using DMV as a revenue source) I figure that it's only fair. If they want to audit me and subpoena my bank records to find every single out of state purchase then all the power to them. They'll spend more money doing that then they'll collect.

The use tax is a joke. I don't know a single New Yorker that actually pays it, nor do I know anyone that's been audited over a refusal to pay it. The funny thing is the state even gives you a "fair use formula" that takes a percentage of your income rather than requiring you to find all of your out of state receipts. Nobody uses that formula either. Only Government could come up with a "fair use" formula that takes a percentage of your income without consideration as to whether or not you actually bought any items out of state.

Re:Use Tax (1)

ShatteredArm (1123533) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134056)

I think the real problem is that since nobody does this, they expect Amazon to do the legwork.

I don't think it's so much expecting Amazon to do the legwork, as not knowing there is legwork to be done. Out of curiosity, I just looked up use tax laws for the state in which I reside:

Use tax is imposed on tangible personal property brought into Arizona for storage, use, or consumption in the state when the seller did not collect tax on the sale of the property. The tax rates due are the same rates as for sales tax. Returns are to be filed on or before the 20th day of the month following the month in which the purchases were made.

That's news to me. Methinks documents like this [azsos.gov] could at least partially account for people not paying a use tax.

Really, Amazon should be obligated charge (a) taxes for the state where the buyer resides, or at least (b) charge taxes where the business is physically located. The company I am working on a project for does business in several countries, and they have to keep track of various taxes in each one, so it's not like it's impossible.

Re:Use Tax (2, Interesting)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134168)

TRUST ME. We have such a field on our state tax forms. I know 3 different people who were audited in recent years. One of the things the auditors did was rifle through their creidit card purchase history. Any transactions from entities know to not collect sales taxes for the state automatically were flagged, and any amounts the persons had failed to enter on their taxes, they got NAILED for, roughly 7 times the ammount they would have paid in sales tax. It seemed the sate was QUITE INTERESTED in getting that out of the way FIRST, right after validating the base income of the couples.

If Amazon is not collecting taxes for you, MAKE SURE YOU REPORT THE PURCHASES ON YOUR STATE FORMS.

In some cases, credit card and bank draft purchases may be automatically reported to your state as well. Wether you are audited normally or not, failure to report these taxes is still against your state law.

By NOT paying sales taxes online you are hurting your local businesses, which effects the local flow of money, and has rippling and compunding effects on your state's budget. (money that leaves the state is not getting paid to people who live in the state which is failed income tax collection as well, and more failed tax collection when thay would have spent those paychecks...) Of course, if you can buy a product locally, you should do that anyway, but even worse than buying it online, failing to pay the taxes on it takes money out of state budgets, and states employ people too, so that's a loss to your community (which results in higher property and other taxes to make up the shortfall).

2 things are certain, death and taxes. PAY TAXES. Audits are NOT fun, and cost more than being honest and paying.

Consumer's fault, not Amazon's (4, Interesting)

metaomni (667105) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133614)

"Sales" tax is still being levied in the form of "use tax" that consumers are supposed to pay on their state tax returns. Just because most consumers are committing tax fraud doesn't make Amazon a guilty party here.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133686)

Actually the "use tax" is levied by the state the SELLER is in, not the buyer. As such, they have no jurisdiction over the buyer.

Re:Wrong (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133782)

The use tax is actually for the buyer and determined by the buyer's state. If the buyer buys from tax-free new hampshire, and goes home to Massachusetts, they need to pay use-tax in MA.

Re:Consumer's fault, not Amazon's (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133702)

I don't think anyone is accusing Amazon of being guilty of anything, I think they just recognize that there is no way in hell people are going to properly report things they buy online so their trying to move to method that might actually work.

Just because someone can be blamed for the situation according to the current law doesn't mean that the current law is a good working model that shouldn't be done away with

Re:Consumer's fault, not Amazon's (5, Interesting)

bflong (107195) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133976)

I honestly had never heard of Use Tax. A quick Google search reveals that I am a criminal.
Fan-friken-tastic...

Re:Consumer's fault, not Amazon's (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134036)

You probably just filled in the default value for that box on your taxes ("use this table to estimate your out-of-state purchases if you haven't kept records"). If you went out of your way to set it to 0, then you'd have heard of the tax.

Re:Consumer's fault, not Amazon's (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134118)

What is the difference between levying a use tax on stuff you claim on your state tax return and automatically levying an equivalent tax on Amazon's end that the consumer pays anyway?

Taxes are good... (5, Funny)

mi (197448) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133636)

If there is an article about virtues of taxes on Slashdot, you can bet, it was posted by kdawson...

Just saying...

Re:Taxes are good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133752)

If there is an article about virtues of taxes on Slashdot, you can bet, it was posted by kdawson...

Just saying...

Instead of "Just saying..." perhaps you should compile a short list of five stories that you find to be biased towards taxation? Might give you more credibility than you have right now. Which is one story.

Re:Taxes are good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133798)

Mod parent up.

Re:Taxes are good... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134094)

Mod parent kdawson

Re:Taxes are good... (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133870)

If Amazon wants to use state provided infrastructure and national defense, they should pay their share of the financial burden. If they feel entitled to pay no tax, they shouldn't be allowed to utilize any services provided by that tax. Some things are necessarily funded through a tax such as police, fire and defense, it is only when the government starts tacking on wasteful spending projects that taxes really become a major problem.

Re:Taxes are good... (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133980)

If Amazon wants to use state provided infrastructure and national defense, they should pay their share of the financial burden.

Their employees and shareholders already pay their share. I know that punishing "big business" is politically popular right now but in the end corporate taxes are nothing more than a hidden tax on individuals. The business will just raise prices to compensate for the taxes that are imposed on it. The end result is that individuals wind up paying the taxes but it's politically popular because some jackass politician can say that he's being tough on "big [insert boogieman of the day here]".

The sad thing is that people eat this stuff up hook, line and sinker.

Re:Taxes are good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134102)

It's a sales tax, not a corporate tax. It's not a "hidden tax on individuals", it's an obvious tax on individuals. Maybe if you took a break from pointlessly raging about them durn libruls you'd have noticed this.

Taxes are neither good nor bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134018)

...but what is bad is an uneven playing field. Why should Amazon have a financial advantage over the store down the street from me?

Actually for me they don't, since I do pay my Use Tax obligations. If anything, buying form amazon is then less convenient because it means one more thing I need to account for while doing my taxes later. However, I know realistically that most of my fellow citizens don't do this, and just treat their internet purchases as "tax-free". That just means higher tax rates overall, penalizing us honest folks.

I do have sympathy for the "it's too burdensome" argument -- not as it applies to Amazon (they're huge, they can handle it) but certainly for the multitude of smaller internet retailers. What is really needed is a federal clearinghouse for this: have each state (and municipality, etc) register their tax requirements with a central authority, have it publish a computer-readable database mapping address->tax rate, and have it collect the money, remitting to states. This is a clear interstate commerce issue, I don't see how even a libertarian could object to a federal role here.

Re:Taxes are neither good nor bad... (1, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134104)

What is really needed is a federal clearinghouse for this: have each state (and municipality, etc) register their tax requirements with a central authority, have it publish a computer-readable database mapping address->tax rate, and have it collect the money, remitting to states. This is a clear interstate commerce issue, I don't see how even a libertarian could object to a federal role here.

I would object to it. What you are suggesting is nothing more than a database that would be populated by thousands of different entities. Why does your clearinghouse need to be run by Uncle Sam? We don't expect Uncle Sam to run the DNS root on the internet. We don't expect him to run the routing tables for the PSTN. Why should he run a database that isn't even going to be populated with information from the Feds?

Re:Taxes are good... They aren't? (1, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134236)

Just saying...

What are you saying?

Taxes are bad? Okay, let's eliminate taxes altogether. No more public safety. No more road maintenance. No more bridge maintenance. Oh, and let's not forget the sewage Those utility bills used to be so much cheaper and more reliable when there was a utility commission.

Shangri-la!

Don't back pedal on me and declare some taxes 'good' and other 'bad.' You suggest all taxes are bad.

Amazon, and every business like it, endlessly complain that the American business environment is 'hostile' to their growth. Looking back at the last 15 years, I'd say they got everything they wanted plus more. And yet, the business environment is more constrained by legislation designed protect companies the size of Amazon. And yet the crocodile tears keep flowing as companies the size of Amazon ship their work overseas.

Specifically, codifying State-based tax rates is not rocket science. Every decent shopping cart can do it and somehow Amazon can't?

dot dot dot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133642)

...", Michael Mazerov stated between bong hits and gargling mouthfulls of jizz.

Still charging it in WA... (1)

ap0 (587424) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133648)

As a resident of Washington (where they're headquartered), I can say that a lot of times I choose other retailers over Amazon because Amazon does charge sales tax for me. I go to Newegg a lot because they don't charge sales tax since they're in CA.

Re:Still charging it in WA... (1)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133792)

It's the same situation with Valve. I just moved to Seattle; I now have less incentive to buy on Steam over other online distributors, because Steam now charges me 10% sales tax, while others do not.

Internet Tax Freedom Act & Why Only Amazon? (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133660)

Calling B.S. On Amazon's Taxation Arguments

Who the hell cares what Amazon claims? If you think it should be taxed, write your representatives and demand they do something about the bill that's been renewed through 2014 [wikipedia.org].

And why are we singling out Amazon? Why not Dell or Newegg or even ThinkGeek? Is it because Amazon is doing too well?

Things just don't add up in Mazerov's posting. He levels charges that sound trivial to prove and prosecute--charges that would result in a lot of back taxes paid to a state. Why doesn't he call one of his colleagues up in any of these states and give them all they need to make a name for themselves? The only reason I can think of is that it's a not a cut and dry clear win for the state. Or there are simply too many companies they'd need to prosecute alongside Amazon -- like Best Buy or Walmart who have a presence in every state and run an e-commerce site.

Re:Internet Tax Freedom Act & Why Only Amazon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133814)

Uh, read what you linked to.

That doesn't affect sales or use taxes. It only prohibits taxing internet access, not purchases.

Re:Internet Tax Freedom Act & Why Only Amazon? (1)

mordred99 (895063) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133888)

Dell collects sales taxes (or they have on my last 10 PCs I have purchased for family members). Agree 100% with your point, just pointing out that fact.

Re:Internet Tax Freedom Act & Why Only Amazon? (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134126)

Well, Dell sells (sold) mostly computers. Amazon sells just about anything.

Some states tax clothes. Some states don't. Some tax some sorts of foods and not others. A state may not tax something but a municipality or county within that state may.

Re:Internet Tax Freedom Act & Why Only Amazon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134014)

The Internet Tax Freeman Act has nothing to do with Sales Tax. It states that there will be no additional taxes levied on the Internet. Sales tax still applies. If the ITFA was repealed, states could charge Amazon a tax, but it wouldn't be a sales tax and it would also apply to every other merchant out there.

Re:Internet Tax Freedom Act & Why Only Amazon? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134076)

From your link:

Contrary to popular belief, it does not exempt sales made on the internet as they will be taxed at the same rate as non-Internet sales just like mail order sales. The Act did not repeal any state sales or use tax.

Emphasis mine. That piece of legislation has nothing to do with this story.

Re:Internet Tax Freedom Act & Why Only Amazon? (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134080)

I was wondering the same thing. Every online retailer does the same thing, they charge sales tax in states where they have a presence and not in those they don't. How is Amazon any different?

Legally due (5, Insightful)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133672)

If it was legally due then states would sue and win. It's not legally due. Yet.

Re:Legally due (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133840)

Do you really want to be using an efficient market hypothesis about the legal system of a country where the first amendment constitution clearly prohibits Congress' creation of laws which respect establishments of religion and yet school children have been for over 50 years been effectively compelled to pledge "under God?"

fuck (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133708)

taxes.

Re:fuck (1)

Again (1351325) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133938)

taxes.

Yeah! And rodes and armed forces and firefighters and public schools! Why do we put up with this!?

And don't split your sentences between your title and post. It's annoying.

Re:fuck (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134120)

Well...the armed forces part are not paid for by sales tax. and most public schools are funded thru property tax, with massive funding from the federal level. I'd venture a guess that a good portion of roads are NOT paid for by sales tax.

You get taxed on your income, what you own, AND what you sell? You don't think that's a little excessive?

alternative (5, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133722)

I'd like to propose an alternate solution

I know, most politicians won't go with it, but here it is: How about cutting spending, not only making the additional revenue unnecessary, but enabling the cutting or even elimination of many taxes and "user fees?"

Re:alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133836)

Preposterous! That would require work! Not to mention common sense!

Simply out of the question!

Re:alternative (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133954)

I'd like to propose an alternate solution

I know, most politicians won't go with it, but here it is: How about cutting spending, not only making the additional revenue unnecessary, but enabling the cutting or even elimination of many taxes and "user fees?"

I'd like to propose an alternate alternate solution

I know, most politicians won't go with it, but here it is: How increasing spending and paying for it with higher taxes and "user fees"? In particular, let's spend more money on roads and mass transit, education, policing, public safety, regulation of the financial system and providing fair access to decent health insurance.

Re:alternative (1, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133958)

While you're at it, how about shifting from regressive taxes that people try to avoid like sales tax and bring in all your revenue from taxes that are easy to audit, hard to avoid, and aren't so highly dependent on the whims of the consumer. If all of our taxes came from taxation on businesses instead of on individuals, we'd have some inflation for a while and would eventually have about the same buying power after taxes, but we wouldn't feel like we were getting screwed by the government. Instead, we'd feel like we were getting screwed by businesses, and we'd see a serious push for more competition and innovation that would drive our economy forward.

Further, people making their money off of the hard work of others would be impacted the hardest because they would see lower returns on their stock options. And people at or near the bottom would have more buying power than they do now, which is good because they're the ones who actually spend money and keep the economy moving.

I dub this plan "trickle down taxation".

So make it simple. (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133778)

Charge an "alternative minimum sales tax" of, say, 8.90%, that gets split between the feds and the local government where the business has its business license. Or change the laws such that sales tax is owed in the jurisdiction where the business is headquartered.

This issue of taxing the buyer and expecting the seller to deal with it is pretty absurd. It works for bricks and mortar, but barely - New York tried to collect taxes from New York residents shopping in new Jersey.

So fix the broken tax code instead of playing whack-a-mole with my wallet.

Amazon vs. Pirate Bay (4, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133780)

while also depriving states and localities of hundreds of millions of dollars of legally due revenue each year

Paying sales-tax is the buyer's responsibility. The seller is merely charged with helping the State collect. I find it worryingly hypocritical of kdawson — and people like him — to accuse retailers like Amazon of "depriving" States of sales taxes, while defending pirate bays and napsters against charges of piracy, in which the end-users engage.

Maybe, this is because Amazon's stand harms the Government, while the napsters harm private enterprise?

Re:Amazon vs. Pirate Bay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133922)

while also depriving states and localities of hundreds of millions of dollars of legally due revenue each year

Paying sales-tax is the buyer's responsibility. The seller is merely charged with helping the State collect. I find it worryingly hypocritical of kdawson — and people like him — to accuse retailers like Amazon of "depriving" States of sales taxes, while defending pirate bays and napsters against charges of piracy, in which the end-users engage.

Maybe, this is because Amazon's stand harms the Government, while the napsters harm private enterprise?

Really? Have you ever tried to buy a $.99 McDouble for just $.99? I bet you don't get your grease-ball-with-cheese from McDonald's unless you pay the $.06 or whatever the tax amounts to in your area.

I imagine it would be, trivial, for Amazon to say "It's nice you want this $25 book for $25, but your CC's billing address is in and in order to complete this purchase we must collect $X to comply with your states tax laws."

The simple solution.... (5, Interesting)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133788)

When you buy something online or via a catalog, you should pay the taxes from the place it was shipped.

If I go to California to buy something, I have to pay California's taxes and not my own. If I pay someone to go to California to buy something for me, I'd have to pay California's taxes and no my own. But for some bizarre reason, when I pay FedEx to ship it to me, suddenly I do not have to pay California's tax but I have to pay my state's use tax.

So to give an example, if I buy something from Amazon and it ships from California, Amazon should bill me California's tax.

Here's why states hate this idea. Because it would allow the states to compete with each other to bring more shipping business into its state. For example, merely to get a bunch of shipping centers built in Oregon, that state could have no such tax. Amazon would then build their shipping centers there and the other states would get nothing.

There's nothing the government hates more than competing.

Taxes, taxes, taxes (3, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133802)

To look at this another way, perhaps Amazon's 5-10% price advantage will pressure the states to drop their sales tax for the sake of local businesses. This is completely feasible - Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon already have no sales tax.

The money that consumers use to purchase goods was already taxed, twice. First the government taxes their income, then the state takes a slice too. Do we really need to tax people's money as it goes into the wallet AND as it goes out?

Re:Taxes, taxes, taxes (1)

sclark46 (969374) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133912)

To the person who said there are only 50 States, this is true but in every state there are local option sales taxes. Also not collecting the tax gives me more money to spend.

Re:Taxes, taxes, taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133946)

Yea, how else are we supposed we fund poorly managed gov'ts??

Re:Taxes, taxes, taxes (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134032)

Do we really need to tax people's money as it goes into the wallet AND as it goes out?

Yes, how else can we take enough money from the producer class to keep the consumer class voting for the status quo?

we're not taxed enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133842)

Blah blah blah let's tax some more. Heaven knows the blood-sucking parasite that is government isn't taking enough.

They got it backwards (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133848)

It would make sense to waive sales tax for businesses registered in state or that employ majority of their total workforce in state. These already result in corporate and individual income taxes collected as well as benefiting state's residents. Out of state businesses without physical presence should certainly be charged full sales tax as they are not charged anything else.

ding ding ding (3, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133858)

Mazerov also finds it disingenuous for Amazon to argue that it should not have to help support public services in states in which it has no physical presence when the company fails to support public services in most of the states in which it does have a physical presence.

Yep. Corporations relentlessly lobby town, county, and state officials to get tax breaks, "loans", grants, and more...all in the promise of "jobs", which is the staple of how politicians get elected.

At least give a look-see to the website for the book The GReat American Jobs Scam [greatameri...bsscam.com]. The author cites case after case where companies get tax benefits, loans, grants, special public utility/infrastructure projects, you name it...and companies stick around until the well runs dry or the find a better deal elsewhere, playing governments off each other endlessly.

Meanwhile, the math behind the "number of jobs" created/saved/etc is pretty dubious, and the author points out that most of them are temporary, contract, or otherwise low-income jobs. What's hilarious is when politicians claim they're helping the tax base- right after giving said company a giant tax break they'll never repay, because the company will jet as soon as the break is over!

Re:ding ding ding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134048)

Does it also have _either_ all the other cases where jobs are indeed created _or_ the total number of cases? Because without either, I can't see how you can draw any conclusions based on it, except as a bunch of unconnected case studies.

This is Slashdot, I don't visit URLs.

Re:ding ding ding (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134208)

Even if the company stays, it's a false accounting. They're only counting the specific jobs in the company that they can see (and they're counting *all* of the jobs in the company, rather than just the delta). They're completely missing the jobs they could have gotten if the "sweetheart deal" was the "general policy" and all the jobs that are lost because of the higher taxes necessary to maintain the same average when some fraction of companies have sweetheart deals.

Taxes? Amazon pays plenty of taxes. (2, Interesting)

cornicefire (610241) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133862)

Amazon isn't contributing anything to the local economy? Huh? When they employ people, those people pay plenty of taxes. In some states, they aren't sales taxes, but the employees still pay income and property tax. Plus, why should Amazon collect taxes in the state where the purchaser lives? If anything, the delivery of that object depends much more on the infrastructure of the state holding the warehouse and the states in between. Trust me. California is making plenty of money from the salaries that UPS pays the delivery team. They just want to add an additional 10% on top of everything because they can't stop taxing.

Ordering from overseas... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133890)

Well I place all my orders from overseas (Europe) at Amazon.com (the US site), and the local TAX police hasn't failed to find me not one single time.

In Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30133892)

we pay fucking VAT on anything we buy, online or otherwise. And that's just extra tax on already high income taxes. Crazy.

States should fix this in their own laws (2, Insightful)

hellfire (86129) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133920)

Just stop using sales tax. Most states already have income taxes of some kind, it's a simple matter of ratcheting down sales tax until it's eventually zero and ratcheting up income tax.

Sales tax is unfair because it's a regressive tax. It's base on how much you buy, not how much you make, and the poor are taxed more percentage wise than a rich person. A $20 shirt with 6% sales tax costs the same if you make $10,000 vs if you make $1,000,000. Income tax is the fair way to go.

**Commence flames from the other side of the political spectrum**

Re:States should fix this in their own laws (2, Insightful)

d34dluk3 (1659991) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134230)

Sales tax is unfair because it's a regressive tax. It's base on how much you buy, not how much you make, and the poor are taxed more percentage wise than a rich person. A $20 shirt with 6% sales tax costs the same if you make $10,000 vs if you make $1,000,000. Income tax is the fair way to go.

I see where you're coming from, but if you follow this argument out:

Differentiated income is unfair. The cost of living is based on how much you buy, not how much you make, and the poor pay more percentage wise for basic necessities than a rich person. A $20 shirt costs the same if you make $10,000 vs if you make $1,000,000. Identical income is the fair way to go.

What do we learn from this? Life is unfair. Sorry if you're just finding this out.

wrong (2, Insightful)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133944)

"hundreds of millions of dollars of legally due revenue each year."
Legally due revenue? Isn't this the same argument that the RIAA/MPAA uses?

What exactly is legally due revenue?

Off-shore (2, Interesting)

Aldhibah (834863) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133964)

After reading the article the only logical conclusion I can reach is that all e-tailers should move their corporate headquarters and distribution outside of the United States. They should then move all of their research and development outside of the United States in case some state government construes that as a presence sufficient to justify taxation. That sounds like a wonderful tax policy there which drives business out of the country. E-tailers are DIFFERENT than typical brick and mortal retailers. The entities they use to distribute their goods and services pay taxes, except for the US Post Office of course. Moreover, there has never been perfect rationality between benefits received and taxes paid.

There are numerous problems. (1)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 3 years ago | (#30133970)

The first is the nature of how sales tax exists. It is a tax on the customer collected by the merchant. That's an idea that works fine with brick-and-morter: but it is very odd to do mail-order.

Also, despite the fact that sales tax is on the customer, and therefore in the customer's state: many states want to charge sales tax when the merchant is in their state as well, potentially double-taxing a sale.

But a bigger problem exists with non-state sales tax. If Pinellas county, or worse Kenneth City, FL pass a 1% sales tax: they don't exactly rush out to tell Amazon. It's simple enough for brick-and-morter to keep track of the taxes where they are, but to keep track of every state, county, and municipality in the US would indeed be burdensome.

We need to go back and redesign, among other things, the entire concept of sales tax to work in the modern economy.

Re:There are numerous problems. (1)

gedrin (1423917) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134074)

It would be relatively easy for Amazon to provide a portal for municipalities or state comptrollers (or other apropriate office) to provide their proper tax rates.

Government on the attack (5, Insightful)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134034)

By claiming sales-tax immunity, says Mazerov, Amazon has enjoyed an unfair 5%-10% price advantage over local retailers.

Then stop attacking the local retailers with taxes.

Re:Government on the attack (3, Insightful)

gedrin (1423917) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134096)

But without high taxation to manipulate, how would the government exercise control over local retailers through tax incentives?

Good for them, whatever their excuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30134052)

Politicians, at all levels of government have been nothing but recklessly irresponsible with all the Other Peoples' Money they keep taking, then rgwt go ahead and cite their deficits as an excuse to take more.

Bureaucrats are just looking for more easy marks to work.

Against their interest to resist (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#30134150)

Eventually it will be taxed. That's inevitable. But what they should work on instead is keeping internet taxes simple. If they work with lawmakers up-front on a decent tax system for the 'net, then they can influence the structure so that it's not convoluted. But if instead it's incrementally introduced by gradual political pressure, it will then be a mish-mash of rules from different lawmakers and regions, harming internet sells in general via complexity and confusion. Amazon would then have to face both sales taxes and a complexity "tax".

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