Amazon.com Inc is leading an effort to put California's recently enacted online sales tax law to the voters next year. If you're one of the few who didn't think the online giant was ballsy enough in its sheer opposition to collecting sales taxes from customers and its threats to pull projects from states to obtain tax waivers, then the company's approach to the ballot initiative petition drive should convince you.
Amazon reps have been stopping California folks outside major brick-and-mortar stores asking the shoppers to support the online sales tax recall effort. Yep, the company has put its agents literally on the front porches of the businesses that have long complained that they've lost millions in sales to Amazon.
If enough qualified California voters sign the petition, the state's residents will get their direct say sometime next year on the whether the tax, which could bring in an estimated $200 million per year to the money-starved state treasury, should stay or go.
I understand that Amazon doesn't want to give up its competitive advantage. And a lot of people specifically shop online so they don't have to pay sales tax on their purchases.
But to Amazon and other online shoppers, I say quit tax cheating.
Technically, California online shoppers, you owe the state tax collector the use tax on your products. This is the same rate as the sales tax and applies to items that are not taxed by the state because they were bought elsewhere but are used within California's boundaries.
Remember, ignorance of the law is no defense. And now you know about it, so you have absolutely no reason to not pay your rightful use taxes.
As for Amazon, get real. The company argues that it doesn't have a physical presence in California so per the prevailing U.S. Supreme Court ruling on this matter, it doesn't have to pay. Well, many folks would consider all of Amazon's subsidiaries with primary offices in the state as sufficient presence, or nexus to use the legal term.
Plus, California has taken care of that presence argument with its new law that includes provisions requiring online retailers that have corporate subsidiaries and distribution centers in the state to collect sales tax from customers. It also clarifies when other kinds of physical presence require a sales tax to be collected.
Amazon's other argument is that it's too difficult for it to set up a tax collection process to deal with all the different states that have sales taxes (only five states are sales tax free).
Really, Amazon? You're the world's biggest online retailer and you don't have the wherewithal to find some tax and tech whizzes who could create such a program? I doubt that.
If you'd fire the attorneys that I'm sure are getting a nice chunk of change to fight state sales tax laws and simply comply, you'd probably come out ahead.
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