Amazon vs. The World

March 17, 2011 -

Retailers have been gunning for amazon.com for a long time and have tried in the past to use political muscle to "put them on a level playing field." When I say "level playing field," what that translates to in the eyes of retailers is "force them to pay state sales tax." Retailers have lamented that it is unfair that they have to make their customers pay sales tax while Amazon does not.

Now brick-and-mortar retailers have a new weapon to take on Amazon - the Alliance for Main Street Fairness. The group is pushing hard to change sales-tax laws in more than a dozen states including Texas and California. Before the group was associated with smaller, local businesses. Now it has the backing of retailers like Target, Best Buy Co., Home Depot, Sears, and Wal-Mart.

Amazon has fought efforts over the years to force them to collect sales taxes. Lawmakers would like to change all that but have to get by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling; the court said that "only merchants who have a physical presence in a state have to collect sales taxes." Amazon collects taxes in five states: Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Washington, and New York.

Still that hasn't stopped the fight to level the playing field, because, as retailers see it, Amazon is "eating their lunch." Last week retailers pushed for a new law in Illinois that forces Amazon to collect sales taxes if it employs marketing affiliates in the state. This law is similar to a law in New York - and if retailers have their way - it will be federal law.

U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin, (D-Illinois) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) are also considering legislation to force online retailers to collect sales taxes.

This is bad news for Amazon and could be a slippery slope for other retailers and online goods sellers that don't currently collect taxes. Would Microsoft, Valve, or Sony like it if the virtual goods they sell suddenly had a state or federal tax attached? I think not. Consumers would not be amused.

We'll continue to follow this story as it develops.

Source: WSJ


Comments

Re: Amazon vs. The World

There should simply be a federal sales tax that applies to companies that sell to customers outside of the state they physically exist in.

-Greevar

-Greevar

"Paste superficially profound, but utterly meaningless quotation here."

Re: Amazon vs. The World

an 'unreasonable burden'....

Consider that Amazon already collects sales tax for most european countries. Why is collecting US sales tax any different?

Re: Amazon vs. The World

Because the US tax code is an unholy mess and trying to determine the the tax rate when you basically serve the entire country is not feasible. US Sales tax is not as simple as state X charges Y%. In some states, that tax can vary across county lines, across cities, across zip codes. Brick and Mortar stores are easy because they simply have a single rate, the rate for their physical location. Amazon would need to figure out based on where the item is shipping, what the tax rate is for that particular address. They would basically need to hire an entire separate tax proecssing firm to track/update/send money for all the various taxes. If that's not an undue burden I don't know what is. Amazon is not the IRS.

Re: Amazon vs. The World

A fair point, but Amazon certainly has the resources to determine the sales tax for any address in the company.

The rub is that smaller independent online retailers don't.  If state governments or the federal government want to require sales taxes, they should be the ones developing the backend to keep track of them.  Set up a DB that any online retailer can access to calculate tax -- if taxing online retailers is really a good way to generate revenue, then it should pay for itself.

Re: Amazon vs. The World

I live in Houston Texas. Tax is 8.25% If I drive 12miles west it is 9.4%  25 miles east 6.3%  North 13 miles it's 10.12% I belive. BigRedButcase has a point our state Taxes are a complete cluster F$@!&.

Re: Amazon vs. The World

Forcing Amazon to collect out-of-state taxes would no doubt constitute an unreasonable burden. While brick and mortar stores can easily have local franchises handle sales tax issues, Amazon would be forced to handle these issues directly as an out-of-state corporation or else be forced to establish an actual physical presence in each of the states it sells to.

Only the federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce. Hopefully they will not be so foolish as to allow the above scenario to take place.

Re: Amazon vs. The World

I loathe Amazon, not because the company doesn't pay taxes, but because it's driving every local bookstore or specialty store out of business, because its service operations are hired out of Pakistan or somewhere, and because it's set up as a sort of dictatorship. I like the convenience and speed, but I just don't like Amazon's attitude towards local stores, towards supporting local labor or towards its customers. Essentially, Amazon treats everyone and everything as 'My way or the highway'.

If Amazon gets knocked down a peg or two, or if it goes out of business altogether, no one will find me crying about it. I'd even be willing to pay more sales taxes to give their competition a chance to get rid of Amazon. Good riddance, I say. It couldn't happen to a more deserving company (other than Walmart of course... or maybe BP... maybe Exxon... okay maybe a few companies are worse, but Amazon definately ain't one of the good guys).

Re: Amazon vs. The World

I'll admit I give Amazon a fair amount of business, but I support local business when I can.  I've never bought a comic book collection from Amazon (though I would have during that glitch last year that had $100 books marked down to $10, if I'd caught it in time); I'd rather pay $50 to my local shop than $30 to people I've never met.

And yesterday I biked up to my local bookstore, the one my dad used to take me to when I was 4 years old.  (It's moved since; it was forced out of its original location when a new Borders moved in up the street.  The local store has done just fine since the move; the Borders is long gone.)  It didn't have the selection Amazon does, of course, but I came home with $35 worth of used and discounted books on my back.  (It would have been $45, but the used, discounted Popeye hardcover I had my eye on was too big to fit in my backpack.)

Amazon's really revolutionized the way people do business, but there's absolutely been a cost, to traditional retailers, to states relying on tax revenues, and to consumers' privacy.  I don't hate them, and I don't mourn the disappearance of major retailers like Borders, but it's definitely good to keep the local community in mind when you shop.

Re: Amazon vs. The World

It seems that Amazon is on it's way to becoming the Wal-Mart of the internet- and I mean that in terms of a universal hatred everyone has for them whether it is justified or not.  

Before we get to the "Amazon is evil and doesn't pay their share of taxes", keep in mind that they are definately paying payroll taxes and every other tax that companies pay.  Also, the sales taxes are payed by the consumer outright.  

Yeah, the government needs to close some huge budget gaps as well as reduce the budget.  Say what you want about income taxes (half of the population doesn't even pay them), but sales taxes directly affect everyone- especially the poor. 

Also, if you want to talk "fairness", big brick and mortar stores dominate the landscape.  Even today, the internet is the best way for a small company to stand a chance to compete with the big boys.  

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Matthew WilsonI updated to a clean instill of windows 10.07/29/2015 - 2:36am
Mattsworknameargue that it's wrong, but then please admit it's wrong on ALL Fronts07/29/2015 - 2:06am
MattsworknameTechnoGeek: It's actually NOT, but it is a method used all across the specturm. See Rush limbaugh, MSNBC, Shawn hannity, etc etc, how many compagns have been brought up to try and shut them down by going after there advertisers. It's fine if you wanna07/29/2015 - 2:05am
Mattsworknamediscussed, while not what I liked and not the methods I wanted to see used, were , in a sense, the effort of thsoe game consuming masses to hold what they felt was supposed to be there press accountable for what many of them felt was Betrayal07/29/2015 - 2:03am
MattsworknameAs we say, the gamers are dead article set of a firestorm among the game consuming populace, who, ideally, were the intended audiance for sites like Kotaku, Polygon, Et all. As such, the turn about on them and the attacking of them, via the metods07/29/2015 - 2:03am
MattsworknameAndrew: Thats kind fo the issue at hand, Accountable is a matter of context. For a media group, it means accountable to its reader. to a goverment, to it's voters and tax payer, to a company, to it's share holders.07/29/2015 - 2:02am
Andrew EisenAnd again, you keep saying "accountable." What exactly does that mean? How is Gamasutra not accounting for the editorial it published?07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - I disagree with your 9:12 and 9:16 comment. There are myriad ways to address content you don't like. And they're far easier to execute in the online space.07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - Banning in the legal sense? Not that I'm aware but there have certainly been groups of gamers who have worked towards getting content they don't like removed.07/28/2015 - 11:45pm
DanJAlexander's editorial was and continues to be grossly misrepresented by her opponents. And if you don't like a site, you stop reading it - same as not watching a tv show. They get your first click, but not your second.07/28/2015 - 11:40pm
TechnogeekYes, because actively trying to convince advertisers to influence the editorial content of media is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, especially for a movement that's ostensibly about journalistic ethics.07/28/2015 - 11:02pm
Mattsworknameanother07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
Mattsworknameyou HAVE TO click on it. So they get the click revenue weather you like what it says or not. as such, the targeting of advertisers most likely seemed like a good course of action to those who wanted to hold those media groups accountable for one reason07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
MattsworknameBut, when you look at online media, it's completely different, with far more options, but far few ways to address issues that the consumers may have. In tv, you don't like what they show, you don't watch. But in order to see if you like something online07/28/2015 - 9:12pm
MattsworknameIn tv, and radio, ratings are how it works. your ratings determine how well you do and how much money you an charge.07/28/2015 - 9:02pm
Mattsworknameexpect to do so without someone wanting to hold you to task for it07/28/2015 - 9:00pm
MattsworknameMecha: I don't think anyone was asking for Editoral changes, what they wanted was to show those media groups that if they were gonna bash there own audiance, the audiance was not gonna take it sitting down. you can write what you want, but you can't07/28/2015 - 8:56pm
MattsworknameAndrew, Im asking as a practical question, Have gamers, as a group, ever asked for a game, or other item, to be banned. Im trying to see if theres any cases anyone else remembers cause I cant find or remember any.07/28/2015 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenAs mentioned, Gamasutra isn't a gaming site, it's a game industry site. I don't feel it's changed its focus at all. Also, I don't get the sense that the majority of the people who took issue with that one opinion piece were regular readers anyway.07/28/2015 - 8:43pm
MattsworknameDitto kotaku, Gawker, VOX, Polygon, ETC07/28/2015 - 8:41pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician