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Congress Takes Up Online Sales Tax

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the pay-up dept.

Businesses 297

head_dunce writes "A bill introduced Thursday by a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers seeks to make it easier for states to collect sales taxes stemming from online purchases. Amazon is among the e-retailers supporting the proposal, while a lobbying group representing eBay and Overstock.com stands opposed. From the article: '"Small businesses and states alike are suffering from the inability to collect due -- not new -- taxes from purchases made online," said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., adding the legislation is a "bipartisan, bicameral, common-sense solution that promotes states' rights and levels the playing field for our Main Street businesses."'"

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Amazon's strategy (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909339)

I've been noticing that Amazon has been spreading out physical presence in a lot of states in recent years, and in the process cutting deals [politico.com] with those states to suspend sales taxes specifically on them (though a few states wouldn't play ball). So it makes sense to me why they might actually support this. As a big employer in a lot of states, Amazon can continue to create and extend special deals to exempt themselves at the state level, while sticking competing online retailers who don't have so much local presence with a new tax burden. Plus, it also standardizes the now chaotic process a little more at the federal level.

Idiots gives suspended taxes (5, Interesting)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909403)

Only idiot politicians give out tax suspensions. Its happened several times with VW and Sony. As soon as the 10 year suspension was up both companies packed up and left.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909449)

Only idiot politicians give out tax suspensions.

"We brought X thousand jobs to the area! We are so good to you, you ungrateful slobs."

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909731)

The problem with tax suspensions/tax cuts for specific companies etc is that it's a race to the bottom

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910597)

Not everyone in that "Tax Area" works for the company getting the break, and the state/City has to make up the lost revenue somewhere, guess who gets gouged?

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (4, Insightful)

Bigby (659157) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909451)

And yet they still benefited. Several people had jobs and were paid for 10 years and they paid income taxes and spent their money mostly in local places, which was sales taxed. The area didn't benefit as much as it could have, but it still benefited.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909861)

And yet they still benefited.

But on average they benefit less than if these special tax deals were not offered all. It is a version of the prisoners dilemma. You can only "win" if you defect while everyone else cooperates. But if everyone defects, we all lose.

Personally, I think these tax breaks are unconstitutional, because they violate the equal protection clause. Why should one business get a special exemption, when others (including their competitors) do not?

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910027)

But on average they benefit less than if these special tax deals were not offered all.

This is an empirical claim. Do you have any evidence?

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

egamma (572162) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910315)

And yet they still benefited.

But on average they benefit less than if these special tax deals were not offered all. It is a version of the prisoners dilemma. You can only "win" if you defect while everyone else cooperates. But if everyone defects, we all lose.

Personally, I think these tax breaks are unconstitutional, because they violate the equal protection clause. Why should one business get a special exemption, when others (including their competitors) do not?

I think you're the only person on the planet who thinks that "Equal protection" should mean "equal taxes". Do you want your taxes to equal what [Teresa Heinz/Mitt Romney/other-rich-person] has to pay? Or, should their taxes be equal to yours? That would be "equal", wouldn't it?

Now, I don't think that there should be equal taxes, and I don't think that there should be tax breaks for certain businesses. But you're going to need to find a different reason to legally prevent such tax breaks. For example, you could try and get a constitutional amendment passed.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910737)

I think you're the only person on the planet who thinks that "Equal protection" should mean "equal taxes".

"Equal protection" does not mean "equal taxes." It mean equal application of the law. If a company is given a tax break for "creating jobs", then the same tax break should be available to any company that meets the same criteria.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (2)

MitchDev (2526834) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910667)

"Personally, I think these tax breaks are unconstitutional, because they violate the equal protection clause. Why should one business get a special exemption, when others (including their competitors) do not?"

Could not agree more. But with big business owning the politicians, not gonna change.

Eliminate all contributions and get rid of the "optional" campaign finance box on tax returns to make everyone use the same pool (and make Bribery/Influence-trading a Treason-level offense).

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909995)

Did they benefit? How many other companies went out of business because they couldn't compete with a big company that had a tax exemption? How much did they actually pay per job (some tax breaks for datacentres have worked out to about $1m of tax exemption per job - even over a decade that's unlikely to be a good deal).

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910099)

And some other area that didn't bid as highly didn't benefit.

Tax subsidies are a stupid political game. The only winners are the companies.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

rnturn (11092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910371)

``Tax subsidies are a stupid political game. The only winners are the companies.''

Agreed. And, yet, politicians still play it with the idea that they won't be suckers. This time.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (2, Insightful)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909485)

If your choice is Amazon builds a warehouse and hires 500 people but you don't get sales tax on Amazon sales or Amazon doesn't come to your state and you don't get sales tax...The choice is pretty easy.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909701)

Yes it is ... fuck Amazon. The sales taxes for Amazon sales in most (if not all) states would exceed the benefit of 500 jobs. Amazon sells $billions of goods in the US every quarter. Chances are the sales taxes on those items are worth more than 500 warehouse jobs.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (3, Insightful)

illusio26 (2794573) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909769)

No, their not. Those 500 employees will all pay income tax and the employer will all pay payroll tax. Then, those employed people will all go out into their community and spend money at local stores, restaurants and other places, thus generating even more sales tax. That's not even taking into account the constructions crews that will be building the warehouse, or the utility companies that will benefit from the new warehouse. All that more than offsets a few years of not collecting sales tax by amazon.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1, Insightful)

Viewsonic (584922) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910229)

I still think the sales tax from Amazon would outweigh that easily. People buy everything online these days from $500 lawn mowers, to $2,000 speakers. There is a reason Amazon is making those deals, they know the business they pull in from states is that large.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (2, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909819)

So say you go with the deal. Now 6 months down the line Amazon has driven 50 more small businesses who employed 5000 people out of a job.

Pretty easy choice.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

Xphile101361 (1017774) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910083)

Not sure how opening a Warehouse is going to stop sales to local businesses. If people didn't want to buy from said local businesses, it would happen regardless of where the warehouse was located.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910361)

It's because they have a 5/6/7% discount when competing against everybody else because everybody else still pays sales tax.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910393)

Amazon has been given unnatural advantage/monopoly in the marketplace of that State. This will drive the market out of equilibrium and when it settles down Amazon will have come out ahead and the rest of the market will have lost. This will mean jobs lost, jobs that would have been never being, and lower revenue for everyone else.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910219)

So what 5,000 now don't have a job, but the other 1000,000 of us get prices 50% lower and items available for purchase and fast delivery goes up by 10,000.

With the savings no longer going to 2nd rate inefficient retailers, that money can be better spent on other things, which in the end creates more jobs and more opportunity for everyone.

Why is this so difficult to understand?

If those "local" retailers so badly want to work in retail, they can go work for Walmart or Amazon and buy their stock to get a share of the profits, but the rest of us do not owe them a damn thing, much less an guaranteed income.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (0)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910385)

Those businesses would have gone down whether Amazon opened a wharehouse or not. If anything, the extra jobs should help sustain them longer. I'm a fan of local businesses, but I am also a fan of not spending money. It's hard to justify spending 20% more at a local store for no perceived benefit, but that's not what this argument is even about. If you want to hate on Amazon, hate on Amazon. Just don't hate on them because they worked out a deal to avoid sales tax. I personally think that any online store that sells over $100,000 in products a year should be forced to collect sales tax. I would like to see Amazon be brought down a peg and not given a fixed 6% (in my state) advantage over everyone else. Maybe with the extra tax revenue, my state can avoid raising the sales tax like they've been discussing.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (3, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910669)

The choice is pretty easy.

It sure is. Say "fuck you" to Amazon and other large corporations that push for a race to the bottom, and make policy that supports the growth of local small businesses that keep the wealth they created in the community rather than drain it away to far-off absentee owners ("stockholders").

The "let's kowtow to big business" strategy has failed so completely and so consistently that the choice would be easy...in a well-informed and non-corrupt political system.

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909495)

So all politicians give out tax suspensions?

Zing!

Re:Idiots gives suspended taxes (1)

hackula (2596247) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909757)

Yep we had the same thing with Boeing in my area. We basically gave them a billion dollars and promised our workers would be subservient and love them long time.

Re:Amazon's strategy (3, Insightful)

darjen (879890) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909631)

Even if Amazon doesn't get special tax deals, it will still hurt smaller online retailers more. Due to their large size, Amazon is better situated to handle the extra overhead and cost these taxes will bring. Amazon has essentially been handed a blank check by investors to get by with extremely low profit margins, as evidenced with their stock price. This could be just the extra bump Amazon needs to put their competition out of business.

Re:Amazon's strategy (4, Informative)

pollarda (632730) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909695)

You are close ... Amazon's strategy is much more simple. When Amazon was just an online retailer with distribution centers in several states, it fought for no sales tax as it would (obviously) help Amazon's sales. The only places where Amazon had problems was in the few states where it had its distribution centers. Amazon's strategy NOW is to go beyond being a simple online sales organization to your daily sales store. Amazon is currently in the process of setting up local _same_ _day_ delivery. You will be able to place your order on Amazon for everything from books to groceries and in a great many cases, Amazon will deliver to your doorstep that same day. Amazon's already been doing this to a limited degree in Seattle and a few other locations. In order for Amazon to do this, they will have to have distribution centers in or near every major city which would in most cases require them to have to collect sales tax. Amazon doesn't want to be in a position where they have to collect sales tax and the other online retailers would not be collecting sales tax putting Amazon at a disadvantage. To even the playing field, Amazon is now not fighting _against_ online sales taxes but is now fighting _for_ online sales taxes.

Personally, I'm against online sales taxes. When you buy something online, you are already paying a "tax" of sorts and that is your _time_. That is a tax or cost to online purchases as it takes up to five days for your products to arrive. If you want your products that same day, you pay an extra (and real) tax by buying local.

What the politicians forget is that the online sales is a wash. If I don't pay sales taxes by buying from something from _their_ state, someone else is not paying sales taxes by buying from _my_ state. Meanwhile, in _both_ states, it creates increased sales and hence jobs which are filled by people who pay sales taxes, income taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, excise taxes (over half of what you pay for insurance is excise taxes btw), etc. etc. etc. It is to the states long term advantage to not charge sales taxes and create jobs. The online sales taxes is a short term solution where states will fill their coffers quickly but, it will reduce the number of jobs and hence taxpayers in the long term.

So, when online sales taxes get put in place and you are paying an extra 6-8% for your online orders, just remember to thank Amazon

Re:Amazon's strategy (4, Funny)

Cigarra (652458) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909793)

You made me _hate_ the underscore.

Re:Amazon's strategy (4, Insightful)

jareth-0205 (525594) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910247)

Personally, I'm against online sales taxes. When you buy something online, you are already paying a "tax" of sorts and that is your _time_. That is a tax or cost to online purchases as it takes up to five days for your products to arrive. If you want your products that same day, you pay an extra (and real) tax by buying local.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:Amazon's strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909939)

They negotiated just the opposite in NJ - they're opening a large warehouse and agreed to collect NJ sales tax but are getting business/real estate tax exemptions.
Once again the average Joe gets to pay for the corporate fat cats.

Capitalism (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909401)

Obviously small business is going to suffer when the western economical system favors growing bigger and bigger.

Re:Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909577)

You know what chaps my a$$ about this? They ship it to you, right? The delivery drivers and their company are paying local taxes. The shipping is the tax! Gah-d dang it, bobby!

Re:Capitalism (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909605)

Actually, the comment doesn't make any sense: "Small businesses and states alike are suffering from the inability to collect due -- not new -- taxes from purchases made online,"

How are small businesses suffering? It's not their job to pay your taxes. Its your job. It's only small businesses job to collect sales tax for purchases made within their state.

Re:Capitalism (3, Informative)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909661)

Are you in 3rd grade? The point is that small businesses suffer because customer will go to on-line retailers that don't charge state sales tax. The way State tax laws are written, the consumer is suppose to pay state sales tax from their state - they call it a use tax now. So even though you live in one state and purchase from an on-line retailer that resides in another state, you are still suppose to pay your state's sales tax.

Re:Capitalism (2)

hierofalcon (1233282) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909945)

The difference is that most local retail stores bring in their goods by truck - frequently their own trucking system like Walmart. They get economies of scale for their delivery charges. If I purchase something on line, depending on the retailer, I may have a very large shipping and handling charge to transport each single item.

They shouldn't get to play the "It's unfair competition on prices. Because you don't pay sales tax we're dying," card.

If the government wants to enforce an extremely regressive form of taxation like the sales tax, that's another debate. But no whining about a tiny percentage of the cost for sales tax causing suffering when most stores - with the exception of Amazon - sometimes - charge outrageous S&H charges - and still beat on price by much more than the sales tax percentage.

The small stores should open up their own web front if they want to compete. Then they'll be whining "Don't make us figure out the complexities of every localities on-line sales tax rules!"

Re:Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909691)

They suffer because big corporations like Amazon can get tax-exemption deals (i.e. "Give us an exemption or we'll move somewhere that does!"). So in the end these taxes only apply to small businesses.

Re:Capitalism (0)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909713)

Item X costs $10.

Mom & Pop R Us needs to collect sales tax by law. You pay 10$ + tax, ~11$
Online mega merchant doesn't. You pay $10.
Therefore, you go online cause it's cheaper. Mom & Pop suffer.

If Mom & Pop have an online store, but you aren't in the local jurisdiction of the tax, they cant charge you the tax.
The municipality suffers lost tax revenue, even though a sale occured that brought money into it.

This stuff has been a long time coming; Amazon saw the writing on the wall, and thats why theyve been beefing up a semi-physical presence. Many products and stores now have a price parity just from the attempt to compete from online pricing. Municipalities that rely on sales tax dont like losing their revenue, and businesses dont like losing sales because of something they are required to collect but another business essentially gets a loop whole around.

Long time coming.

Re:Capitalism (2)

ewieling (90662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910317)

Item X costs $10. Mom & Pop R Us needs to collect sales tax by law. You pay 10$ + tax, ~11$ Online mega merchant doesn't. You pay $10. Therefore, you go online cause it's cheaper. Mom & Pop suffer.

You missed the part where mega merchant charges you $3 for shipping.

Re:Capitalism (1)

Common Joe (2807741) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910607)

That depends. What if you're paying for something virtual... say like a movie that you can download?

Re:Capitalism (4, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909749)

Small businesses will suffer because the expense of keeping track of the sales tax they need to collect from every municipality around the country will add one more cost of doing business. For Amazon, that cost is minimal. For a company that is run out of someone's basement by that single individual, it will likely be the difference between being profitable and a waste of time. Small retailers who think that this will make it easier for them to compete with Amazon are dreaming. It will mean that they will never be able to afford to open a website to sell their goods directly to consumers at a distance.

Re:Capitalism (1)

DogDude (805747) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910133)

A. It's called a cost of doing business.

B. There's this stuff called "software" that is really good at tracking numbers automatically.

Re:Capitalism (5, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910513)

A. It's called a cost of doing business. B. There's this stuff called "software" that is really good at tracking numbers automatically.

So, how much is it going to cost me to get that software? Who is going to update it every time one of those many municipalities changes their tax laws? How much will that cost me? Do you have a clue how complicated it is to keep track of the sales tax laws all throughout the U.S., with different municipalities charging sales tax on different things? Not everything is taxable in every municipality and what is taxable, or not taxable varies from location to location. In addition, How do I keep track of what tax jurisdiction a customer is in (hint, zip codes won't do the trick)?
Sure, you can say, "That's a cost of doing business," of course when you say that what you are saying is "I don't mind stacking the deck in favor of big business."

Re:Capitalism (1)

DogDude (805747) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910555)

A software company does the updating. Right now a company called Intuit updates all kinds of very complex payroll tax tables all across the US for the most popular small business accounting package, called Quickbooks. They've been doing it for at lease a decade. Works well. I don't understand why you'd think this would be an insurmountable problem.

Re:Capitalism (1)

Common Joe (2807741) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910623)

I also have a question. What happens if the said software happens to have a wrong tax figure? Who pays the penalty once the problem is found?

Re:Capitalism (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910551)

My guess is that places like Paypal will include this as a feature for free. Software should be able to handle the problem easily I'm sure.

Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909405)

Yay! More taxes that the government is going to take and waste through ego, corruption, and bureaucracy!

Re:Yay! (5, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909583)

Because local sales taxes, property taxes, state and federal income taxes, capital gains taxes, and all of the additional fees that people forget are actually just taxes isn't enough, apparently. And of course, the justification is always "well, but when you buy a video game that is shipped from another state, it has to travel over our roads -- so our state incurs an expense, even if the business you did business with is 2,000 miles away".

Of course, they conveniently ignore the fact that the companies doing the delivery of your product (UPS, FEDEX, DHL, etc) already pay taxes for doing business in that state for transporting your good. And buy gas, with included gas taxes for road usage. So, really, what individual states are demanding is additional revenue for incurring absolutely no cost or wear and tear. It's a money grab by a bunch of irresponsible pigs who can't handle what they're already given to budget with.

The big box stores go right along with it, because they're tired of the online competition. That's their only motivation. Somehow, they have this idea that if I have to pay taxes to Amazon for a product they'll deliver to my doorstep in 24-48hrs that I'll change my mind and drive a few miles to go buy the same thing for at least as much and for the same amount of sales tax in their store. Pretty shitty logic. It's less hassle to just go the online route, even with taxes. In fact, I'm more likely to do it just to spite the big box brick and mortar stores.

Anyway, it's a lost cause. It'll be taxed, because the pigs want it taxed. And it won't help anything, because the more money they get, the more they spend. It's just really depressing when you consider how much money you're handing over every April and how little will be done with it, compared to how much of an impact it could make to you. For the taxes I just paid this time around, I could have put a kid through four years of a good state college and had enough left over for them to buy a car. Or I could have helped my mother with her retirement after decades of working in a thankless and harrowing job with no real retirement opportunities or benefits. I could have covered her salary for three and a half years, making retirement a possibility for her. Instead, it'll probably go toward 20% of a drone purchase or installing two speed bumps. And that sort of waste is why people are so disgruntled with paying taxes. If they felt the work and money they are just handing over was being respected and used wisely, they'd feel that sense of "hey, it's my civic duty". When it's just being used as a free pot of money by a bunch of irresponsible pigs, you just feel like you're getting fucked.

Re:Yay! (0, Flamebait)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909739)

Yup you're a 3rd grader. The big box stores do business online - so you comment about tired of the online competition and delivery is stupid.

The rest of your comment is pure blather. State and local taxes go to providing services you use. You don't like it move to Somalia. If you feel the tax revenue is not being used properly, then get involved; vote, write your representative, go to town meetings, or run for office. Complaining like a whiny little bitch on message boards won't change anything.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910173)

"State and local taxes go to providing services you use"

You are a poopy head. Do you have any idea how much money is wasted in local and state bureaucracy, abuse, graft and plain old inefficiency?

It's not just the fucking roads and police you dip shit. How do your local roads and police work out for you in Detroit huh? Is the answer there "they aren't paying enough taxes"? No it fucking isn't. Somalia my ass. Bend over and pay up drone.

Re:Yay! (0)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910639)

I always thought that there was a lot of waste in the State government, and then I got hired by the State. Now I realize that however much waste I thought was there, would be just a drop in the bucket of how much waste is actually there. It makes me want to vomit. People are getting paid good salaries to surf the web all day. I remember when I used to be so busy. When I left my old job, they had to hire 2 people to fill my spot, because I was that busy. Now...I've gone a full day without providing any service. I'm seriously looking for work again, just because I can't stand to do nothing all day. To those who live in my state, I thank you for your continued support, and I apologize that I can't do anything to help you.

Re:Yay! (0)

Fallingcow (213461) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910523)

I've seen many approaches to trying to persuade the anti-civilization, barely-understands-what-government-even-is, taxation-is-theft crowd, but I have to say, yours of simply calling this one a 3rd grader and a whiny little bitch is by far my favorite. It's something about your style—you really sell it.

I'm not kidding.

Bonus: you don't waste a bunch of time trying to bring them up to speed on 2500 years of political philosophy, the history of the last two centuries, and basic political economy.

Re:Yay! (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910533)

I think you made a really good post, but I disagree on a couple of items. We live in a "must... have... it... now!" society. I've learned that to some people, saving money or getting better is completely irrelevant if they can get it now over waiting a few days for it come by UPS, Fed Ex, etc. These people aren't going to buy online anyway and they're more numerous than you may think.

The other problem I have is with your taxes comment. Lots of Americans seem to equate paying taxes with flushing money in the toilet - paying for military equipment for wars they don't support, paying some government employee's salary to do nothing every day at work, and so on. Believe me, if you were to live in some kind of Libertarian utopia where you never paid taxes you'd wish the current system was back. Know those roads you drive in that hopefully don't have giant potholes in them? Your taxes paid for that. Know those police and fireman who come quickly when you call instead of making you give a credit card number first before they'll come to your house? Your taxes paid for that. Got kids? Well, if you use public schools, your money went to help educate your kids and your neighbor's kids.

Main Street Businesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909481)

Maybe, just maybe, your Main Street business strategy isn't viable anymore?

Slashdot is always full of "the RIAA's business model is old and they're trying to use the law to defend an outdated model, down with the regime!" messages. how is this any different other than the giant monster behemoth corporation is on the right side of the business model this time?

Re:Main Street Businesses (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909611)

People tend to romanticize "Mom & Pop" stores. But having worked in a Mom & Pop grocery store growing up, I'm under no such illusions. The people I worked for were just as greedy and treated their workers just as shitty as Walmart or any of the big box stores. There is nothing inherently noble or morally superior about being a small business on Main Street. It just means you're small, and also on Main Street.

Re:Main Street Businesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909751)

It depends on whom you work for. I've worked for a very large corp before where the CEO and the officers were very kind and weren't there to make the biggest buck but to build a business for the people. I've also worked for a mom's and pop shop that didn't try to eye-gouge its customers but then there were some other places that I've worked at which was pretty terrible, at least how we were told to manipulate customers. Mom and pops, corporate or not, it doesn't matter because they can screw with you and in most cases they will. You will seldom see honest businesses on either side of the spectrum but they still do exist.

Re:Main Street Businesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909771)

Absolutely. While it is a comfortable memory of having lots of small shops on Main Street I do not want to go back to that era, especially for electronics. We still have a store like Radio Shack nearby, I recently went there to get an HDMI cable. The price of the longer cables was about twice as high as at Amazon, including shipping. Of course the salesman was neither nice nor helpful so unless it is an emergency where I need something on the same day I will avoid shopping there.

Re:Main Street Businesses (1)

hackula (2596247) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909865)

Mom & Pop can be much better employers... or they can be much, much worse. Corporate america tends to be a bit more normalized. I would not be at all surprised that Mom & Pops are significantly more likely to have issues with sexual harassment, withholding pay, poor working conditions, etc. I am sure it happens, but it is hard to imagine any of these things overtly happening in a corporate environment, since this is a function that even the least competent HR department can handle.

Re:Main Street Businesses (1)

DogDude (805747) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910239)

From what I understand, almost every large business today forces its employees to go through credit and drug tests. From what I understand, that's almost universal in the US now. I don't know any mom and pop businesses that do that.

Re:Main Street Businesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910507)

you're understanding wrong then. there are plenty of companies that do drug test, but i've applied at plenty who don't, and i know plenty of people who work for large companies and don't need to take them.

i've never heard of anyone having their credit history looked into when applying for a job. maybe of you want to be a banker or accountant, but generally this is not a common practice.

Re:Main Street Businesses (4, Interesting)

Creepy (93888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909933)

You worked for the wrong people then. Most of my relatives are from small towns, and several owned stores and one family a restaurant. On my mom's side, the whole town believed in doing what is best for your neighbor, and if you couldn't afford something you needed, say, at the hardware store, the owner would help you out or cut the price to something you could afford. Probably has something to do with them being Mennonite, but I grew up with that mentality - do something good for your neighbor, and they will do something good for you. Note this is not on the commune - these were former communal Mennonites, but they still got together to build each other's barns and stuff.

Re:Main Street Businesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910603)

I spent a few days in Loma Plata [wikipedia.org] in Paraguay and the people there were the most friendly and helpful I've ever met anywhere. Just two examples: a restaurant owner gave me a lift back to my hotel at the end of the night; and as I was leaving town a stranger offered me free steak just so I could taste how good it was (though I had to turn it down, reluctantly, because it was raw and I was taking a long bus journey).

Oh yeah, and it's a Mennonite town. Mennonite towns have an incredible community spirit, but that really doesn't tell you anything about small towns in general.

Re:Main Street Businesses (2)

ctrlshift (2616337) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910293)

The people I worked for were just as greedy and treated their workers just as shitty as Walmart or any of the big box stores. There is nothing inherently noble or morally superior about being a small business on Main Street.

This is a terrible collision of logic and statistics that presents a view which is technically correct but misleading in almost every meaningful way when seen in the context of history. You're saying that because small businesses (referring to them as Mom and Pop stores is definitely over-romanticizing) are made of the same greedy people as big businesses and because they are businesses, they will treat their workers just as poorly. To reduce: A is always true and B is always true, therefore C is possible possible, therefore we should assume that C is always true.

It doesn't work like that. You only have to do a little research to see what hideous working conditions big businesses create. Walmart is a poster child for this, but take a look at Amazon's shipping facilities or Nike's assembly lines. The razor thin profit margin, the distance between the decision makers and the workers, the relentless need to please the shareholders: these are all terrifyingly dehumanizing elements of big business, and it shows. Small business has some of these pressures too, but at least your boss has to look you in the face when he's an asshole; that's a powerful motivator.

I'll bring my anecdotal evidence in last because it's probably the least significant, but yes, I've had a dozen or so jobs for both local businesses and national enterprises. I can say with absolute certainty: It's not even just a slight difference in management style, flexibility, pay, work environment, and good old-fashioned giving-a-shit: It's bloody night and day! When the owner of the company you work for sees you every day, collaborates with you in person, buys drinks, plays D&D, etc, I guarantee that you are treated better than any employee at WalMart.

Re:Main Street Businesses (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909637)

You're giving Mr. Womack's statement far too much credibility. He represents Arkansas's third congressional district, the home of Wal-Mart. Citing main street business is just a propaganda tactic.

U$A news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909669)

better than any sitcom.

Sales Tax is for idiots (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909717)

We shouldn't even be looking at sales tax as a revenue source. The reason sales tax is so acceptable is that people don't notice it until it's too late. They don't realize how regressive it is. In fact, people are so oblivious to this tax that it's become the fashionable way to pay for multi-million dollar stadiums. That reason alone is why I buy things online. Because of all these projects, sales taxes in "major" metro areas are approaching 10% and exceed that for hotels, car rentals, bars and restaurants. That's money that's taxed after you've already paid income tax on it.

Would anyone here take a 10% cut in pay? Yet we gladly pass sales taxes that do the same thing.

The U.S. should go back to its roots and use tariffs as the only source of revenue.

Re:Sales Tax is for idiots (1)

Xphile101361 (1017774) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910227)

How does using tariffs help STATES? Unless you want your products imported from California to have tariffs on them.

Re:Sales Tax is for idiots (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910427)

Would anyone here take a 10% cut in pay? Yet we gladly pass sales taxes that do the same thing.

There is no sales tax on the things I spend the bulk of my income on: rent/real estate, investments, groceries, utilities, medical bills. I'd be surprised if more than 1% of my net income goes to sales tax. If sales tax is significantly affecting you, then you're spending a lot more money than you probably have to.

The U.S. should go back to its roots and use tariffs as the only source of revenue.

Yeah, let's go back to having no standing army, too. If you can find ten voters in the same Congressional district who support those proposals, I'd also be surprised.

Re:Sales Tax is for idiots (2)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910459)

How about no tax *except* sales tax? That way you get taxed based on how extravagant a lifestyle you lead. Oh, and Wall St. transactions can have the same tax rate as everything else...

Surely all Republicans oppose this job killer? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909729)

If they have the courage of their convictions, the GOP will kill this in the House. This job killing tax will take money out of the hands of private individuals, where it can't be spent wisely and place it in the hands of government where it will be squandered.

Re:Surely all Republicans oppose this job killer? (1)

Skapare (16644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910547)

Why not just eliminate sales (use) taxes entirely?

How in the world is this supposed to work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909745)

When you walk into a store and buy something there, there is no question about where the sale takes place. That store has no question about what items are taxable and what the rates are: they are the ones that apply to that place. Online sellers do not have that luxury, not anything close to that. There are more than 7000 taxing districts in the U.S., and the rules--and even the boundaries of the districts--are in a constant state of flux. Just determining the district, let alone keeping track of the rules, becomes an immense undertaking.

Several states wanted to streamline the process with the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, but it has turned into something that is not streamlined at all. All those little taxing districts wanted their own distinct parts of the pie, and there is still the hodgepodge of rates and classes of items taxed.

How did we come up with the principle that the point of sale for mail-order and online purchases the address of the customer? If I walk into a store in a state with a higher tax state, they don't let me pay sales tax in my home state at the lower rate instead of that higher rate. No, in this case the rate depends on where I have my feet when I make the purchase. If I then travel to a lower-tax-rate state and, while there, buy an app for my smartphone, they don't consider that my feet are in a state with a lower rate, but where I live.

Why not cut through all the confusion and say that the point of sale for an online purchase where the business is that sells the item?

Amazon are crazy (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909777)

The moment I have to pay sales tax on {stuff I get from Amazon} is the moment I stop being an Amazon customer - over 90% of my online purchases are with Amazon, and its not just the usual stuff that people buy online - I buy the sort of stuff that people would buy at walmart (soap, deodorant, batteries and other household goods at Amazon so I don't have to pay sales tax

Re:Amazon are crazy (1)

DogDude (805747) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910263)

You're not a customer that anybody wants. No business person in their right mind would lose any sleep over customers that have zero loyalty, and are just looking for the best price. That's Business 101, and it's absolutely true.

Re:Amazon are crazy (2)

Common Joe (2807741) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910739)

You're not a customer that anybody wants. No business person in their right mind would lose any sleep over customers that have zero loyalty, and are just looking for the best price. That's Business 101, and it's absolutely true.

I think I'm going to disagree. I don't see any large business that grooms customer loyalty. I'm not talking about loyalty cards... I'm talking real loyalty. On top of that: because so few people have loyalty to businesses (they are hunting for the lowest cost bargain), most businesses want these kinds of customers. We've been using the phrase "race to the bottom" on Slashdot and I think that aptly describes the situation of loyalty between customer and business.

I'm sure someone can find a few examples where this is not true, but overall I think I'm right. At least that's my opinion for the moment.

Re:Amazon are crazy (3, Informative)

Xphile101361 (1017774) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910267)

So at the end of the year you don't pay a use tax? Hopefully your state doesn't have one. Otherwise congratulations, You've just become a tax evader!

Re:Amazon are crazy (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910305)

The moment I have to pay sales tax on {stuff I get from Amazon} is the moment I stop being an Amazon customer - over 90% of my online purchases are with Amazon, and its not just the usual stuff that people buy online - I buy the sort of stuff that people would buy at walmart (soap, deodorant, batteries and other household goods at Amazon so I don't have to pay sales tax

So this is your confession that you are committing tax fraud? Or do you actually pay the associated "use" tax that your state charges and you are just playing word games.

Re:Amazon are crazy (1, Troll)

sdnoob (917382) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910437)

at Amazon so I don't have to pay sales tax

you, and people like you, ARE the problem.

yes, you don't have to pay "sales tax" on online purchases made from out of state merchants... but you DO have to pay a USE TAX [wikipedia.org] . afaik, every state with a sales tax on local purchases also has a corresponding use tax to collect the equivalent amount in use tax on untaxed (or under-taxed) out of state purchases.

use tax may be difficult for states to enforce because there are no reporting requirements (one of the things amazon and other online merchants fought against) -- states don't know how much is owed to them, and by whom; but that does not make paying use tax a voluntary thing. if you and others like you would have paid your use tax on out of state purchases, this would be a non-issue.

use tax is typically either a line item on state income tax returns, a separate single-page form submitted at the end of the year, or if you yourself are required to collect sales tax on your own sales (e.g. businesses), it may be on your sales tax reporting form.

amazon grew to be the size it is by exploiting the fact that people like you are greedy enough to ignore their local sales and use tax laws. now that amazon is so big, and has such a large percentage of the online shopping market, they believe that even if the tax playing field were leveled, they'd still be able to beat local retailers and chain stores... which is why they are finally supporting online sales tax collection.

Re:Amazon are crazy (1)

dnahelicase (1594971) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910679)

I buy the sort of stuff that people would buy at walmart (soap, deodorant, batteries and other household goods at Amazon so I don't have to pay sales tax

Then you are probably already not following the law. Most states require that you report any goods you buy where sales tax is due, but where the retailer did not collect sales taxes.

I'm going to assume you aren't reporting those purchases at the end of the year (I believe the statistics show most people don't) but that does not mean that it's not a requirement. This legislation is about making it possible for states to collect taxes that are already due in a manner that traditional brick-and-mortar already have to deal with.

This is going to be a mess... (1)

ikedasquid (1177957) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909779)

So is this tax a federal sales tax, or is it going to allow the states to collect sales tax? From the article (which was vague) it makes it sound like it's going to allow states to collect and is to benefit states / local economies. That sounds great (not really), but...

...how long until I'm paying taxes to two (or more!) states for a purchase online? (Tax to my state and tax to the state where the merchant is)

I can't find the bills online (spent 5 minutes on senate.gov), so I can't see if the bill provides some direction on which state gets to collect the tax. If someone finds the bills it would be great to provide a link.

Re:This is going to be a mess... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910261)

well, right now you're supposed to be paying the sales tax to your state, but no one reports it so it doesn't get paid.

the only way i can see this working is if the states set up a system that allows out of state retailers to be a middle man of sorts, reporting and billing the tax at time of purchase.

Simple way around it... (2)

amoeba1911 (978485) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909797)

Here's a new video card for $0.01 - shipping is $200.

Re:Simple way around it... (1)

krovisser (1056294) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909935)

Hm, that sounds familiar...

Re:Simple way around it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910653)

Here's your new fine for violating the tax law. Turns out many states already recognize that kind of shenanigans, and have laws against it.

Wrong focus (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909821)

The problem isn't that "state taxes are too big for Amazon to figure out." They've got plenty of legal and tax representation.

The real issue is for SMALL sellers on the internet. Say, people who sell via etsy, or bands that sell albums direct to fans.

Now, suddenly, THOSE people need to understand and properly understand taxes for all 50 states, collect those taxes, and remit them to the proper time to the proper authorities. Oh, with all the necessary paperwork.

Re:Wrong focus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42909963)

Yes, the small businesses are directly screwed with the burden, and they won't havethe clout to negotiate sweet-heart deals like the big bastards^H^H^H^H^H^H^H:

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/05/21/0247237/amazon-poised-to-get-cut-of-ca-sales-taxes

Re:Wrong focus (2)

dnahelicase (1594971) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910727)

The problem isn't that "state taxes are too big for Amazon to figure out." They've got plenty of legal and tax representation.

The real issue is for SMALL sellers on the internet. Say, people who sell via etsy, or bands that sell albums direct to fans.

Now, suddenly, THOSE people need to understand and properly understand taxes for all 50 states, collect those taxes, and remit them to the proper time to the proper authorities. Oh, with all the necessary paperwork.

It's not just 50 states, its 50 states and each taxing jurisdiction in those states. City, county, local, and special taxing jurisdictions make sales and use tax incredibly complicated.

Simply: Bullshit (2)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909907)

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., (said) the legislation is a "bipartisan, bicameral, common-sense solution that promotes states' rights and levels the playing field for our Main Street businesses."

This, folks, is a politician.
When he sees that local businesses are being heavily taxed, and some other business model comes into existence that evades that tax, his efforts are to ensure that other business is ALSO heavily taxed. Make sure the misery is spread equally, instead of (perhaps) asking if there's anything that can be done to reduce the misery generally.

Specialization increases efficiency in a system, generally.
If products can be viewed electronically (remotely), and delivered by mail/courier, the 'public services' being used are minimal. The distribution center already pays property and relevant taxes. The carriers are paying taxes for gasoline and vehicles (which is already subsumed in their prices) which compensate for the public ways/facilities used. The homeowner is already paying property taxes for local law enforcement, etc. (Or the property owner, if it's a rental unit.) I and the retailer are both already further paying for the infrastructure allowing us to communicate.

The fact is that modern technology has made many goods more efficiently sold through remote-purchase and postal distribution. This is simply a (faster) recap of the paradigm-shift in commerce when traveling merchant caravans no longer bought everything on speculation to (hopefully) sell later down the trail. Likewise, big-box retailers kicked the crap out of local small retail/grocery stores generally (albeit that process isn't quite complete yet). Nobody today mourns the loss of the merchant caravan; and already the younger generations have no maudlin feelings about the local small general store.

Good! (0)

DogDude (805747) | about a year and a half ago | (#42909921)

It's about fucking time. Of course, most of the damage has already been done. Not only have many businesses been destroyed, but at this point, there are so many lazy people who feel entitled to have everything delivered to their door for free, that it's going to be a tough road back for many businesses.

You just don't get it... (3, Interesting)

judoguy (534886) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910321)

All the talk here about "fairness" and companies needing to "Pay their share" completely misses the point.

The real problem is voracious government entities that will NEVER be satisfied with how much they take from you. NEVER.

You want fairness? Get rid of the sales tax on the brick and mortar stores. What? We can’t do that need that money! For the children! To buy civilization!

We are WAY past “buying civilization”. The only question discussed by any parasitic government entity is how quickly to kill the host.

And yes, the host is dying. The U.S. is over 100 trillion in the crapper with admitted debt and unfunded government liabilities according to the Dallas Federal Reserve president. We can’t grow our way out of a 100 trillion (and rapidly growing because of massive spending) problem. The U.S. at least, is screwed.

Re:You just don't get it... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910519)

Thank you for adding a dose of sanity to the liberal BS that is so prevalent on this site. I fail to understand how the so-called 'educated' who inhabit this site are so utterly clueless when it comes to government, the economy, and yes - simple math.

It just goes to show that mathematics don't play much, if any role in programming and computer science!

Enforcement (2, Interesting)

sexybomber (740588) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910329)

How will this shiny new tax be collected and enforced?

One option is to put the onus on the retailers to maintain a database of all the different sales tax rates in the country, so they can collect the appropriate amount on the purchase. At least in New York, sales taxes vary by county -- the State takes 4% and the county takes anywhere from 3-5%. That's 62 lines on the spreadsheet, just for New York. I think NYC adds a point or two as well. This would have to be correlated with a ZIP code table, so the retailer would know which ZIPs are in which jurisdictions. It's tedious, but not impossible. Perhaps the IRS could spend some of our money to draw up the tables and maintain them.

Another avenue is to put the onus on the buyer to calculate and remit the appropriate taxes to the authorities. If I were a sociopath, I'd like this method better. It doesn't burden the retailers and it provides a delicious means of social control, not to mention a wealth of interesting information on what people are buying. Let's take a non-Amazon company as an example, since Amazon has bought exemptions from State sales taxes:

NewEgg is contacted by the NY Department of Taxation and Finance and ordered to turn over their NY sales records. No warrant is required, since the request is for tax compliance purposes. DTF runs the records through their computer system and looks up the tax records of each NewEgg customer. If the customer didn't report the sale, they're in big trouble. If it's a significant amount that they didn't report, or there's a pattern of non-compliance, off to private prison with you!

Cue the naysayers saying I'm a paranoiac and Our Glorious Overlords would never do something so fiendish...

Re:Enforcement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910565)

Most states already have laws that state that the purchaser is responsible for remitting the sales (or use) tax to the state. Connecticut even has places on the income tax forms for this. The key is that the state's either don't want to be the heavies enforcing this, or can't afford to enforce it.

So they want to shift the cost of collection to businesses, whether or not those businesses are in their jurisdictions.

Re:Enforcement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910575)

why would retailers need their own databases? i'm sure a system could be devised where they hook in to a federal system to get the info they need.

from a developer's perspective, this really isn't very difficult or even time-consuming to implement. of course, amazon is known for its enormous and convoluted code base, so maybe i'm wrong.

Mail Order Sales (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910479)

Mail order sales have been taxed in various states for a long time. What is the difference between mail order and internet sales? You order by mail or phone and it gets delivered by mail or parcel post.

Tax rate (1)

Skapare (16644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910629)

So what percentage of tax will I need to charge customers who pay anonymously for online services and download products where I don't even know what country they are in?

WTF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910641)

How about getting rid of the fucking tax?

Why dont they level the playing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42910643)

Field by removing the brick and mortar tax instead of adding a tax you hypocrite no new taxes republicans.

R-Arkansas (3, Insightful)

MattGWU (86623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42910761)

Surprise! The Congressman representing (3rd District, encompassing Bentonville, where Wal-Mart's HQ is located) the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world is pushing for sales tax on sales made by their main competitors.

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