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Amazon Forbids Crossing State Lines With Rented Textbooks

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the controlling-dangerous-items dept.

Education 125

New submitter Galaga88 writes "In what is probably another attempt to evade charging sales tax, Amazon's terms of use through Warehouse Deals forbids crossing state lines with certain rented textbooks. The penalty for doing so? Retroactive forced purchase of the book. At least it's yours to keep afterwards. 'Some experts believe the policy is another reflection of the extreme lengths to which the company continues to go in order to avoid collecting state sales taxes. But could Amazon’s use restriction and other complicated rental conditions cause problems for students or lead potential textbook renters to take their business elsewhere? It seems like a policy that would be nearly impossible to enforce. But Richard Hershman, vice president of government relations at the National Association of College Stores, points out that if a student has textbooks sent to her home state and ships them back from a different state where she attends college, Amazon could easily note the new shipping location.'"

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Covering butt (4, Informative)

twotailakitsune (1229480) | about a year ago | (#44587637)

This sounds less like Amazon being evil and trying to hurt people. It sounds like they put that in to cover their butt. They don't have to deal with book makers saying they are "promoting" braking the law.

Re:Covering butt (4, Interesting)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year ago | (#44587831)

no, what they are doing is purposely being difficult in order to avoid dealing with ridiculous lawmaking from our government. they are making a statement saying "see, we can be ridiculous too". and the best thing is? it is legal for them to do so. the issue at hand is that for years, the federal law stated that you only pay sales tax if there is a brick and mortar store(or warehouse) in that state. the government has recently been changing it so that the states can charge sales tax even if there isnt a brick and mortar store. this is bad for amazon, and im sure it is worse for amazon than the profit loss from ppl not wanting to rent books from them. the reason they can offer such a cheap price all the time is that they dont have to have sales tax. with taxes, they will lose a huge portion of their profit.

Re:Covering butt (3, Insightful)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44588025)

That "ridiculous lawmaking" is state and local governments trying to collect sales taxes.
This is a whack a mole competition where corporations look for ways to avoid sales taxes and states try to patch up the loopholes.
The corporations could just step up and acknowledge their civic responsibility to collect and pay sales taxes but they don't... hence the game.

Re:Covering butt (4, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#44588097)

the problem is keeping track of tax rates in 3000+ counties plus cities plus other 'special' economic zones.

It's certainly a doable thing, but it ain't easy, nor is there any mechanism for knowing what is the 'correct' tax to charge at a given point.

Next up, is it shipping address? Billing address? what if the tax rates are different between them?

What if the tax rate varies on other factors?

What if my IP says I'm in Sweden, what then?

It's not as easy as collect the tax when there are quite a few permutations that don't tell you when they change.

Re:Covering butt (4, Insightful)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44588167)

Believe it or not, there are people with computers and databases that track this information and it all can be done automatically.
You can obfuscate it if you're trying avoid paying tax or you can just pay the tax.

Re:Covering butt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588483)

Who gives a shit? State and local governments have no jurisdiction over Amazon as outlined in the Constitution. Amazon has no infrastructure and uses no infrastructure in many states. Why should they be taxed? The use tax is on the onus of the person receiving shipments.

Of course, if states make reciprocity agreements to force local businesses like Amazon to charge taxes on out-of-state residents.. that's another thing.

Re:Covering butt (1)

Stiletto (12066) | about a year ago | (#44589027)

You don't need physical presence in a state to be considered as having a nexus [about.com] in that state and subject to collecting taxes.

Re:Covering butt (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44590307)

You don't need physical presence in a state to be considered as having a nexus in that state and subject to collecting taxes.

What you can maybe do is have a company that doesn't exist in any state; E.g. Canadian headquartered company that owns a subsidiary in various states, and another foreign subsidiary.

There is one subsidiary that owns the website, that makes all the buys/sells with peoples. The company that owns the website doesn't own any real-estate, doesn't have any facilities, doesn't own the products that are sold; they just collect the payment, and hold the liability for delivery of the product.

Then they have contracts with various subsidiaries to fulfill those transactions with product.

E.g. You buy the product from one company; that company doesn't have an office or headquarters in ANY state. Instead of importing the product from Canada to the US, they call up their sister company that has the physical product: in exchange for the use of certain intellectual property, they have an agreement in place that allows them to buy a contract for delivery of the product to the final consumer, at a price that essentially nothing above the cost of shipping.

Re:Covering butt (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | about a year ago | (#44588587)

What about food products..? or localities that have windows where taxes for certain classes of goods don't apply? It's not nearly as simple as you lay out.

Re:Covering butt (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44588739)

It's not simple. That's why we have computers.

Re:Covering butt (2)

PTBarnum (233319) | about a year ago | (#44589349)

Oddly enough, computers are not typically good at making complex judgement calls, like determining whether or not a given product is "food" under the arcane definitions in various cities, counties, and states. That requires a person to research the product, research the law, and apply the latter to the former.

Years ago, before Amazon changed to supporting sales taxes, there was an effort by several online retailers to negotiate with states to create a uniform set of taxable categories, so products could be classified once, and only the tax rate would be variable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Regrettably, this effort did not succeed.

Re:Covering butt (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44589877)

The people who make "food" generally understand that it is "food" and this checkbox can be ticked and the computer doesn't have to spend a lot of time thinking about it.
I'm sure the states would be happy to just collect a flat 10% on everything with no complex rules, exceptions, etc. but this would upset a lot of corporations and special constituencies who would immediately go to work demanding special exemptions for their special needs and soon you would have the same complex set of rules.
In fact, I believe that I did hear of a proposal for a "national sales tax" along these lines but it did not gain support.

Re:Covering butt (2)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | about a year ago | (#44590085)

But it's taxed more granularly that just "food" in many regions. Takeout or eat in? Prepared or not? Cake or biscuit? [wikipedia.org] These questions and more can all affect the tax rate charged on an item.

Re:Covering butt (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year ago | (#44590719)

It can get more arcane than that, in Washington they tried to tax candy differently then other food and we ended up with a odd weird system where a twix chocolate bar was not considard a candy bar but a hersheys bar was and taxed at a different rate fortunately we managed to get that tax repealed because it was so arcane and hard to know what was considered candy

Re:Covering butt (4, Interesting)

makomk (752139) | about a year ago | (#44589241)

Believe it or not, there aren't people with computers or databased that track this information. Sales tax regions are geographical constructs don't correspond to particular zip codes or streets or anything useful like that - you can have two houses that are in the same street and zip code but have different sales tax rates. Hell, two halves of the same house can be in different regions with different sales tax rates - try handling that in a sensible way. There's no automated way of mapping from an address to a sales tax region and there's never going to be.

Re:Covering butt (4, Insightful)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | about a year ago | (#44589481)

Believe it or not, there [avalara.com] are [cchgroup.com] indeed [taxrates.com] companies that do just this.

Re:Covering butt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44590437)

I love that our system of laws basically creates businesses that have no purpose but helping people comprehend the system of laws.

Re:Covering butt (1)

vux984 (928602) | about a year ago | (#44589563)

Sales tax regions are geographical constructs

So they correspond to bounding boxes defined by GPS coordinates. And addresses are like wise definable in terms of GPS coordinates, and this is rapidly taking place. I'd be surprised if 80%

Determining whether an address is inside or outside of the bounding box is very doable in an automated way.

Hell, two halves of the same house can be in different regions with different sales tax rates - try handling that in a sensible way.

Assuming this is actually a real issue, its still a non-issue. Either the GPS tag for the address places it inside the tax region or it doesn't. As somone who sells things online, I'm not the least bit worried that dumbfuck county, USA is going to come after me for tax evasion because some guy ordered something from me while sitting in kitchen which is technically in tax region A, instead of his living room in region B.

If they feel the GPS coordinates are wrong, they can submit the correction, and the database can be updated. But I'm not going to worry about it.

Just as I don't worry that a ZIP or postal code in the databases I use now are incorrect. Which happens. All the time. Espeically as new addresses and postal codes are being issued all the time and its not unusual to run into one that isn't in the database yet. But its not the end of the world.

Re:Covering butt (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year ago | (#44590779)

it is bad. For example my grandmothers neighborhood is in an oval that is not inside the city limits even though on all sides it is part of the city limits this was a really problem because there was a meth lab down the street and it took monthes for the cops to do anything because the county sheriffs and the city police kept trying to make the other one do it. Boundries are very arcane.

Re:Covering butt (2)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about a year ago | (#44588177)

I find filing my personal income tax exceedingly complicated what with all the possible permutations of credits/deductions/income sources/etc, so perhaps I will just throw my hands up in the air and not bother filing.

Or can only wealthy corporations skirt the law because things are "too hard"?

Re:Covering butt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44589791)

perhaps I will just throw my hands up in the air and not bother filing.

Isn't that exactly what you'd do, if you thought you could get away with it?

Re:Covering butt (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year ago | (#44589825)

Or can only wealthy corporations skirt the law because things are "too hard"?

Yes.

Re:Covering butt (2, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a year ago | (#44588205)

the problem is keeping track of tax rates in 3000+ counties plus cities plus other 'special' economic zones.

This more than manageable and there are already services out there that provide an up-to-date database to their customers. Home Depot, Best Buy, Apple, and others seem to have little trouble calculating the correct sales tax when a customer orders online.

What if my IP says I'm in Sweden, what then?

They calculate tax from the shipping address not the IP address.

Re:Covering butt (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#44588367)

As I said, doable, just not easy :)

Home Depot, Best Buy and Apple already know the local tax rates because they have physical presences in those states and already calculate the taxes. Amazon does not have the physical presence that they do.

I'm all in favor of there being a standardized place and method, but without it, there really is a burden placed on companies trying to do business on the web. Amazon might be able to swing it, but what about the mom & pop store selling on the internet? How exactly do they find out what the tax rates in Lake Wobegon are? :)

Re:Covering butt (1, Troll)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about a year ago | (#44588629)

Oh, lookee here, another one!

http://www.zip2tax.com/ [zip2tax.com]

So let's continue to freak out about the complexity of a problem that has already been solved.

Re:Covering butt (2)

makomk (752139) | about a year ago | (#44589279)

Of course, the service they're offering is actually impossible because you can't determine sales taxes from a normal zip code - there are often multiple sales tax regions within one zip code. I have a feeling you'd get into fairly deep legal shit if you relied on them to calculate sales taxes.

Re:Covering butt (1)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about a year ago | (#44589489)

That's funny because both links I provided support street address lookup.

Re:Covering butt (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588755)

As I said, doable, just not easy :)

Rumor has it that there are electronic devices that do calculations fast and can be "programmed" to perform repetitive tasks. Soon the day of a clerk manually entering in the correct tax rate from a stack of index cards will be over.

Re:Covering butt (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44590259)

It's not as easy as collect the tax when there are quite a few permutations that don't tell you when they change.

Find the highest sales tax rate any state or region charges, and bill the buyer that amount for tax recovery.

Transfer the money to a subsidiary whose job is to figure out which tax rate applies, pay to the relevant authorities, and keep the difference between the highest tax anywhere and the tax they had to pay as their profit.

Re:Covering butt (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year ago | (#44590917)

Find the highest sales tax rate any state or region charges, and bill the buyer that amount for tax recovery.

Transfer the money to a subsidiary whose job is to figure out which tax rate applies, pay to the relevant authorities, and keep the difference between the highest tax anywhere and the tax they had to pay as their profit.

And then get sued for fraud, because that's what charging sales tax that is not in fact due is.

Re:Covering butt (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44588347)

The Internet: looks like state lawmakers did't see that comin'!

Sorry, that's bullshit (3)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#44588541)

That "ridiculous lawmaking" is state and local governments trying to collect sales taxes.

No, that's state and local governments trying to coerce corporations into collecting sales tax for them, when there is already a use tax law, and it's the state and local governments job to do the collecting.

Re:Sorry, that's bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588685)

No, that's state and local governments trying to coerce corporations into collecting sales tax for them, when there is already a use tax law, and it's the state and local governments job to do the collecting.

Actually it's the consumer's job to report it.

Re:Sorry, that's bullshit (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#44589761)

No, that's state and local governments trying to coerce corporations into collecting sales tax for them, when there is already a use tax law, and it's the state and local governments job to do the collecting.

Actually it's the consumer's job to report it.

You're right... the state and local governments should make a law to that effect. And enforce it themselves, instead of asking corporations to enforce it for them.

Re:Sorry, that's bullshit (1)

jsepeta (412566) | about a year ago | (#44590803)

Or do corporations (including Amazon) attempt to outwit state / federal laws by offering to self-govern the collection of taxes? The last thing they want is more government oversight. If we look to industries other than publishing, we'll find many of them do a half-assed job which they perceive is better than government control (say, the energy industry).

Re:Covering butt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44589619)

Or the states could attempt to compete with the online store by making it more appealing to make purchases at physical locations within the state.

Re:Covering butt (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#44589801)

Why does someone, in this case the shareholders of Amazon, have an obligation (civic responsibility) to collect tax for a government that does not have jurisdiction over where that person is?

Re:Covering butt (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44589945)

I don't know if you have noticed it but this is the way it works for most taxes. If you check your pay stub (if you have a job), you will see that the company you work for has a legal obligation to collect all kinds of taxes... FICA, FUTA, SDI, state and federal withholding. Yes, companies have a legal obligation to collect these taxes. It's the law. Yes, companies are subject to the laws of other states. If you want to do business in California, you need to follow California law even if you are in another state.

Re:Covering butt (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#44590177)

First off, all of those taxes you mention are for taxes imposed by the jurisdiction where the company is located. I know for a fact that if I live in a municipality that has an income tax, but work in one that does not, the company is NOT required to withhold the income tax for that municipality (unless they also have offices in that municipality, in which case I am not quite clear on the law). The same is true of state income tax. So, just because I do business with someone who lives in California, it does not mean that I do business in California. It could be argued that they are doing business in the state in which I am located. If I am not in California, I do not have a "civic obligation" to California.

Re:Covering butt (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about a year ago | (#44589933)

And that's why a new tax plan that only pays for the govt by property taxes. No more income taxes. If you own a house, you pay taxes, if you rent, you don't. Own a 5 million dollar house? You pay a lot more money than someone who owns a 100k house. Own an expensive warehouse, split the cost between all your customers. Seems like a workable plan.

Re:Covering butt (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44590097)

> the reason they can offer such a cheap price all the time is that they dont have to have sales tax.

I'm pretty sure you didn't mean that. There are several reasons why Amazon can offer a cheap price, including *not* having to build, populate and maintain brick-and-mortar stores, plus doing things in volume, having centralized warehouses, and other savings. I suspect that the least of these is that they don't have to pay sales tax. (I'm pretty sure you meant *charge* sales tax, so I won't quibble that it's the consumers who actually pay the tax.)

Re:Covering butt but its so ludicrous its stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588011)

"points out that if a student has textbooks sent to her home state and ships them back from a different state where she attends college, Amazon could easily note the new shipping location"

So they now want control of books that are moved from point A to B.
I agree that "fed up the with corporations trying to take control of different aspects of our lives via unilateral contracts" that are
unenforceable just to cover their butts and blame the customer for not obeying the unilateral contract.
That is why i will no longer buy digital books, mag, periodicals, etc.... hard copy versions only if available.
Again the more they screw with my rights the LESS i will buy and only if i can own it out right or can make a legal
copy to store on my own local devices, screw the cloud storage services, that's another business scam rant.

Re:Covering butt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44590763)

can you spell M-o-n-o-p-o-l-y Boys and girls?

We see how "democracy" works for those that want to dominate the US consumer...

Something Worth Banning (5, Interesting)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44587679)

I'm sure I'm not alone in being fed the fuck up with corporations taking control of different aspects of our lives via unilateral contracts. I think it's high time we demand such obligations be banned, thus empowering consumers to at least have a little say in how a contract is worded and executed.

Unilateral contract == legalized rape entirely too often.

Re:Something Worth Banning (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44587723)

Yep, if you give the same contract to every single person you deal with, it's not really a contract, and more of an imposition.

Legal term: Contract of Adhesion (4, Informative)

rsborg (111459) | about a year ago | (#44587869)

See here: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/contract+of+adhesion [thefreedictionary.com]

adhesion contract (contract of adhesion) n. a contract (often a signed form) so imbalanced in favor of one party over the other that there is a strong implication it was not freely bargained. Example: a rich landlord dealing with a poor tenant who has no choice and must accept all terms of a lease, no matter how restrictive or burdensome, since the tenant cannot afford to move. An adhesion contract can give the little guy the opportunity to claim in court that the contract with the big shot is invalid. This doctrine should be used and applied more often, but the same big guy-little guy inequity may apply in the ability to afford a trial or find and pay a resourceful lawyer.

In essence, the "lawyer" in this case for students would be a class-action lawyer, and now you understand why major corporations and the wealthy (who, in general control them through stock ownership) hate the idea of class action suits and have done their best to have forced arbitration, banning class actions and the like.

I'd rather we have class actions that slap down these corporations rather than have these sociopaths-by-design run amok. Call me a socialist if you will.

Re:Legal term: Contract of Adhesion (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44588037)

The problem with class actions is that nobody has faith in them. Anytime I get a notice about a class action I might be eligible to be part of, I summarily ignore it. Why? The only payout is for the lawyers, and occasionally the class members get coupons for pizza. I like pizza, but I don't like being slapped in the face.

Re:Legal term: Contract of Adhesion (2)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about a year ago | (#44588119)

I'm middle-of-the-road when it comes to getting slapped in the face with pizza. I'd still take that over dealings with any lawyer. Bad pizza can make you sick for a few days, a bad lawyer can ruin you financially.

Re:Legal term: Contract of Adhesion (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44588417)

I think for me the biggest factor is the pizza itself. Being slapped in the face with a nice well-made slice isn't half as bad as being slapped with a slice covered in curled pepperoni, each filled with molten grease the temperature of a railroad flare..

Re:Legal term: Contract of Adhesion (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44588927)

Mmmm... Railroad flares... mmmmdrool.

Re:Legal term: Contract of Adhesion (1)

rsborg (111459) | about a year ago | (#44588125)

The problem with class actions is that nobody has faith in them. Anytime I get a notice about a class action I might be eligible to be part of, I summarily ignore it. Why? The only payout is for the lawyers, and occasionally the class members get coupons for pizza. I like pizza, but I don't like being slapped in the face.

Even if that is the case, which I don't doubt in many cases, the fact remains that there needs to be some check to the immense powers that corporations have today. The US Government is completely captured. Without a legal fallback you would expect to see contract requirements and clickthroughs when you buy gas for example.

Re:Legal term: Contract of Adhesion (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44588393)

I think it's adorable that you think such a method makes much of a difference.

Re:Legal term: Contract of Adhesion (1)

Stiletto (12066) | about a year ago | (#44589041)

Your cynicism and apathy are the problem.

Re:Something Worth Banning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588033)

Clayton Williams, is that you? Enjoying the weather?

Re:Something Worth Banning (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#44588299)

Funny, you don't have to agree to the contract. Vote with your wallet.

This isn't really Amazon, this is crazy tax laws that Amazon is trying to not deal with.

On the flip side you could just be happy with Amazon raising their prices to cover the sales taxes?

Re:Something Worth Banning (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about a year ago | (#44589429)

On the flip side you could just be happy with Amazon raising their prices to cover the sales taxes?

Why would they have to "raise" the prices? I hope Amazon won't raise their price to cover the sales tax in another state as I already pay tax on my Amazon purchases. Just tack the tax on like every other business does.

Re:Something Worth Banning (1)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | about a year ago | (#44590107)

A price raise would be justified to cover the cost of the work to determine, collect, and submit the tax.

Re:Something Worth Banning (2)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44588381)

I'm sure I'm not alone in being fed the fuck up with corporations taking control of different aspects of our lives via unilateral contracts.

This isn't a problem with a corp, in this case its state law makers, really. And you're not the first /.'r to miss this. How can so many "consumers" get this wrong?

Re:Something Worth Banning (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44588549)

While I understand that Amazon's actions are in regards to state taxes, that's not what I was talking about - I was referring to the unilateral contract that allows them to dictate to their customers what said customers can or cannot do with the goods/services rendered.

Sigh... but yea, I'll also point out that this country's taxation system is royally fucked up, if that makes you feel any better.

Re:Something Worth Banning (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44588621)

Yeah. I just released gallons of "water" after you cleared that up. Doof.

Re:Something Worth Banning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588445)

Just don't do business with those companies and their contracts. You are the consumer. You have the dollars. You have the power to spend them where you choose. Paul Lehman - no Anonymous Coward / just don't want to sign their Terms for an account:)

So I graduated and moved (2)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year ago | (#44587709)

Seriously, or, I transferred to another college, why does Amazon care? If I rent from a physical location, and haul them myselves, does it matter to whom I rent them from?

Amazon has become to powerfull (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44587737)

Amazon has become to powerfull and should be scaled down. I did business on Amazon and had constant problems with them. It didn't matter to them what a store's policy was, it was Amazon's way or nothing. They take a large cut on the purchase price and shipping fees which squeezes a vendor's profit many times to a few cents. Many things don't belong to Amazon at all, they just are the go-between seller a buyer. Amazon should fuck-off after a sale is made.

Amber alert time? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44587755)

I turned that shit off first ting sailor. Phone me about some abducted or not rented textbook and I will do a Dick Cheney on you.

Sales Tax My Ass (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44587763)

1) I rent a textbook from Amazon.
2) I, not Amazon, take the textbook into another state.
3) Amazon now owes sales tax in the state I took the textbook to.

Sorry, but not buying the whole "we're doing it to avoid paying sales tax" line.

Re:Sales Tax My Ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44589359)

Some experts believe the policy is another reflection of the extreme lengths to which the company continues to go in order to avoid collecting state sales taxes.

This from TFS.

Sorry, but I was very much on-topic, Mr Moderator. And in order to remain on-topic, I invite you to try and explain why Amazon would suddenly be required to pay sales tax in the scenario I described.

What about border area students? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44587799)

commuting students or even students in where a nearby road is the boarder.

Re:What about border area students? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44590119)

commuting students or even students in where a nearby road is the boarder.

What, you mean, like Vancouver Washington, which has sales tax, and Portland, Oregon, which doesn't, both cities having residents who work in the other city? Seems to me, they're screwed. The law doesn't take into account that people live in areas where they often cross arbitrary state lines. Sorry...

(Yeah, it is stupid...)

Hahahaha. Oh, you're serious? (1)

sandbagger (654585) | about a year ago | (#44587807)

Let me laugh harder. What lawyer decided that this would be a money-maker?

I don't give a shit (1)

rvw (755107) | about a year ago | (#44587867)

The beauty of having an epub reader is that I will never buy ebooks from Amazon.

Re:I don't give a shit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588315)

The beauty of having an epub reader is that I will never buy ebooks from Amazon.

Out of curiosity, how often is it again that you have to mail back rented ebooks?

Enforcement? (2)

JestersGrind (2549938) | about a year ago | (#44587899)

Explain to me how exactly they would enforce this policy? They have no idea where the book goes unless it's RFID tagged or something. You could take the book around the world and they would be none the wiser. Just make sure you return it on time and all is good.

Re:Enforcement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44587989)

They're assuming that they would just look at the sender's address when the book gets shipped back. What's to stop someone from shipping them back home and having their parents send them back to Amazon? Nothing really.

Re:Enforcement? (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about a year ago | (#44590665)

Ah but that is where it could be a pain in the ass. You go to school out of state. You want your books before the term starts so you order them to your parents. You finish the term and then need to return them. You then have to drag them back home to your parents to mail them back. Probably pretty tight windows since they probably want the books back in plenty of time before the next term so there is a good chance the state they are in when they need to go back is different than the one that you got them.

That said I'm Canadian and though not perfect still much easier for almost everything cross border.You pay tax where you buy if you do it in a store or if online pay tax based on your province. Done. No games like is it a Tuesday and you are in the cornbelt buying a food product from out of state or anything.

I would be mad, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44587909)

Avoiding taxes is something I can support.

Importing textbook (1)

simonbp (412489) | about a year ago | (#44587921)

And this is why I never had any compunction about buying the "non-US" (drastically cheaper) versions of standard textbooks. The whole industry is scam, driven by the silly ways we fund education grants and loans.

Re:Importing textbook (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44588447)

That's what I did. It was definitely worth it.

OK, got it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44587965)

The only two ways not to be in an eternal legal limbo with regards to eBooks are:
- don't use them.
- steal them.

Either way you know what's what.

Re:OK, got it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588343)

Somehow, though I'm not quite sure exactly how, I don't think their talking about mailing back ebooks. Call me crazy....

No crossing state lines with textbooks. (4, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about a year ago | (#44587985)

Unless the textbook is 18-years old. Allowances will be made if you're only two or three years younger than the textbook.

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44588077)

The last few comments I read seemed more about being mad about where you can carry books and misunderstanding, thinking the book carrying thing is something Amazon did to "Make more yummy money".

Evade, or avoid? (3, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | about a year ago | (#44588261)

To "evade [wikipedia.org] " taxes is illegal. But to "avoid" taxes is legal.

Even a "tax shelter [wikipedia.org] " that avoids paying 100% of tax might be legal, depending on circumstances.

There is wide agreement that taxes discourage people from certain behaviors, and tax breaks encourage people to do whatever gives the tax break. So, for example, J. Random Person could invest in solar panels on the roof of his home, and potentially get enough of a tax credit [energystar.gov] to offset his tax liability.

Should we be angry that someone paid no taxes? The tax break on solar panels was there to encourage people to invest in solar panels, and J. Random Person did that. This is the system working as intended. Society wanted to encourage more solar panels, and more solar panels were in fact installed.

Now, consider Amazon. The current weird tax system is the law of the land. (I think a "flat tax [asktaxguru.com] " with no exceptions would have many good features, but it's just a fantasy at this point. We are so far from a flat tax that it's really not worth discussing.) If Amazon can do some weird thing like banning interstate use of rented books, and the tax system is currently set up to reward that, then I don't blame Amazon for doing it.

If you don't like it, maybe you should tell your elected representatives that you would like to see changes in the way sales tax works.

P.S. I am not claiming that the current sales tax system was intentionally set up to encourage Amazon to take these steps. The tax code is so convoluted now that weird corner-cases must be expected. But whether this was intended or not, if that's what the law encourages Amazon to do, and we don't change the law, we shouldn't be surprised if Amazon does this.

Re:Evade, or avoid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44590041)

But does Amazon has any right whatsoever to enforce laws? They are essentially saying that you broke some rule or law and then enforcing that upon people by making them pay money. Like a fine for breaking the law. This isn't their job.

Can Amazon say that I can't use my rented textbooks in school that accept or don't accept government funding for minorities and if I break that rule they fine me and make me buy the book.

So if you have duelling border cities.. (3, Interesting)

platypusfriend (1956218) | about a year ago | (#44588281)

So, what then for cases like Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington? They both are reasonably sized cities which border each other on a state line, effectively creating a single metropolitan area. Many sleep in Vancouver, yet live their lives in Portland; and, of course, vice versa.

Re:So if you have duelling border cities.. (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about a year ago | (#44589441)

So, what then for cases like Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington? They both are reasonably sized cities which border each other on a state line, effectively creating a single metropolitan area. Many sleep in Vancouver, yet live their lives in Portland; and, of course, vice versa.

Isn't this an issue even without Amazon getting involved, since Oregon doesn't have a sales tax.

Re:So if you have duelling border cities.. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44590185)

So, what then for cases like Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington? They both are reasonably sized cities which border each other on a state line, effectively creating a single metropolitan area. Many sleep in Vancouver, yet live their lives in Portland; and, of course, vice versa.

Isn't this an issue even without Amazon getting involved, since Oregon doesn't have a sales tax.

To a certain extent, although there are known ways to cope. For instance, in Washington, you don't get charged sales tax if you show an Oregon ID. I think the OP was speaking of the case where a Portland resident rents a book from Amazon, then (if I'm reading the article right) crosses over the river to go to work, and suddenly is required to buy the book.

Not too difficult to check (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#44588631)

Unfortunately between Geo-location based on IP address and GPS it wouldn't take long to establish if someone is outside of state lines. There are problems with either method of course. IP based addressing isn't very helpful behind a gateway, and isn't always 100% accurate. GPS chips can give false readings for any number of reasons. Neither method is foolproof to a level good enough to be able to automatically charge someone money.

My concerns go beyond this being heavy handed. What kinds of checks and balances are in the system? What measures are taken to ensure that a single set of false readings isn't going to cost someone a lot of money? Are warnings given before someone is billed? Region locks were bad enough, but things like this point to the adage that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something. The whole thing crosses the line.

Sales taxes to be collected in Georgia after 9/1 (1)

lophophore (4087) | about a year ago | (#44588719)

Amazon will be collecting sales tax in Georgia starting 9/1, and I expect the other states will fall soon. So pooh-pooh on your sales tax theory.

Bad idea (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about a year ago | (#44588767)

Make the e-book of lesser ( or no ) value in many cases.

When do they start doing it with purchased books?

How are they tracking these books (1)

The Lonesome Rider (3022045) | about a year ago | (#44588989)

If these are textbooks how are they tracking them gps, rfid, ip address when rented (the most stupid way of all) or is this just some stupid rule that can be easily gotten around (Take the books where needed than later ship them back from the original state)

What about a federal VAT on internet sales? (1)

bdwoolman (561635) | about a year ago | (#44589067)

The online sales the states must tax are intrastate. Interstate is still the problem for states and vendors alike (The new law requiring collection notwithstanding.), But the federal government clearly can tax such commerce -- electronic or otherwise. It is established law.

A Value Added Tax is a very fair kind of tax that only taxes the end consumer. (Fair being a relative term here.) It is an account-book pass through so it does not hurt sales up and down a supply chain. That is, VAT does not get written into the price and so with a VAT you do not wind up taxing tax in subsequent sales (with old fashioned sales tax you do). Some things (typically educational materials) are VAT exempt. And different classes of goods are taxed at different rates. The federal government could easily get vendors to collect such a tax universally online and then the USG could redistribute it to the states using a formula based on population. Or on internet sales dollars per capita. Or something.Or, as a nation, we could use the money and earmark it for improvements to our network. Or both. A VAT is a much different tax than a simple regressive sales tax which actually constipates the supply conduit.

Europe uses VATs to collect national taxes on consumption, which captures revenues from people who otherwise do not pay income taxes (in paces like Italy this is just about everyone -- or was.). A big gripe by the US rich is that such a large percentage of people pay no federal taxes when really they earn enough to do so, but off the books. Did you fix cars on the side for undeclared cash and use the money to buy a big-screen TV? With VAT Uncle Sam will at least get a little bite. And fair enough at that. IMHO A VAT in internet sales makes sense now that online retail has matured. And rather than a primitive sales tax a VAT is just a more nuanced solution. I imagine Mr Bezos will think otherwise and he has just bought Washington DC's hometown newspaper to allow him to subtly press his points home. Of course if you are a no-new-taxes-ever kind of person then such an idea is poison. It would go nowhere in the current House of Reps. But things will change at some point.

Re:What about a federal VAT on internet sales? (1)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | about a year ago | (#44590133)

Only taxes the end consumer? I thought that with a VAT, it got retaxed at every step of the chain. The manufacturer sells to the wholesaler? Add 20% VAT. The wholesaler sells to the retailer? Add 20% VAT. The retailer sells to the customer? Add 20% VAT. So the customer ends up paying 72.8% tax on that item.

Is that incorrect? If so, could you please explain how?

Re:What about a federal VAT on internet sales? (2)

marka63 (1237718) | about a year ago | (#44590751)

As a retailer you get charged VAT by your wholesaler and you charge VAT to your customer. The difference goes to / returned from the government.

So something that ends up being tax exempt as a retailer you recover whatever VAT you were charged on the product. Schools are often tax exempt but you buy from the wholesaler as if you are selling to the public.

If you sell at a loss you recover the VAT you lost.

Fair use and consumer Rights trump contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44589131)

This article is another dribbling piece of FUD. Amazon can say what it likes in its contracts and TOS agreements, but its words, no matter how much legalise they use, cannot deactivate general legal rights. If an individual rents a textbook, that individual is free to travel wherever they like in the USA without potential penalty.

Amazon is NOT engaged in games with ordinary customers- they can go ahead and ignore the smallprint, and rely on their legal rights as consumers instead. Amazon instead is engaged in games with the government, book publishers, and corporate customers. The business model of the ebook is still too new for all the 'kinks' to have been worked out. Apple is in court over its disgusting price-fixing con for this very reason.

The government DEMANDS that the relationship between companies and ordinary citizens be reasonable, simple, and respectful. The government DEMANDS that companies never give ordinary citizens the impression they need to be lawyers in order to be safe consumers. Despite what your Yank TV shows tell you, Law is not a game.

PS obviously if your rental agreement involves future payments to keep the copy of the textbook, each new payment may fall under the mandate of the State in which the copy currently resides, but what would be odd about that?

Re:Fair use and consumer Rights trump contracts (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year ago | (#44589875)

This article is another dribbling piece of FUD. Amazon can say what it likes in its contracts and TOS agreements, but its words, no matter how much legalise they use, cannot deactivate general legal rights. If an individual rents a textbook, that individual is free to travel wherever they like in the USA without potential penalty.

They only lose the game if someone plays against them.
For most people, paying the purchase price for the book because of the "violation" is going to be cheaper than hiring a lawyer.
So guess who wins.

"Closing a loophole?" Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44589903)

Never seen so many people anxious to be charged a new tax.

Laughable (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#44590091)

The area I live in is defined by mountain ranges, and the communities are along the river. The State boundary is on one side of that river, but it doesn't stop school districts from being comprised of communities from both sides, because that's how the communities are defined. There's also a College on one side and many of the students rent apartments on the other.

But, hey, maybe this says more about States than it does about Amazon.

I suggest lawful protest (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44590405)

I'm going to rent $50,000 worth of Textbooks. When they come in; I'll pack them in my car and drive across 10 states... all the way to Seattle, Washington, to return them in person.

Of course they won't be able to charge my CC $50,000, and they won't have a chance of collecting payment for the books in full.

Who's with me?

OK... well maybe not... for those of you who aren't that courageous.... rent a few books, take them across state lines maybe, take photos of the whole thing... Go back home, return them, and don't tell Amazon a thing about it. Post on Twitter long afterwards.

In fact.... take 'em across state lines as frequently as possible. Especially if you go to school in a different state than your mailing address?

Although I really see no difficulty: rent a PO box at school and tell Amazon to use the mailing address in whichever state you school at -- or use a mail forwarding service. Then you can receive the books anywhere, without having to transport them across state lines. Just be sure to mail them back in the same place you got them.

There's no need to tell Amazon about it at all.. is there. Just don't reveal the fact that you are at school out of state, and don't do something dumb like mailing them back in from an out of state address ----- although I suspect once you've boxed them up it's OKAY.

Otherwise... how could you possibly return them? The address you are returning them to by mail is probably across state lines; so you will be violating the agreement from the second you put them in the mailbox at home?

Checking where it's shipped from... (1)

RobbieCrash (834439) | about a year ago | (#44590677)

But Richard Hershman, vice president of government relations at the National Association of College Stores, points out that if a student has textbooks sent to her home state and ships them back from a different state where she attends college, Amazon could easily note the new shipping location.

I'm sure Amazon will start tracking this shit. Does Amazon give a fuck where a return was sent from? Do they even look? I'm sure everything gets dumped by the truckload into their return centre by FedEx or UPS or whomever, and that's the end of anyone giving a shit about shipping in that process.

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