Amazon Sues NY Over Questionable Tax Collecting Law

from the time-to-prevent-a-mess dept

Recently, Tim highlighted that NY state, in a desperate move to squeeze more tax revenue out of changed the law to require Amazon to collect and pay NY state sales tax on goods shipped to New York. Federal law only requires that companies that have a physical presence in a state collect the sales tax. Amazon doesn't have a physical presence in New York, so New York redefined "physical presence" to include anyone who's a part of an affiliate program. Of course, Amazon affiliates are little more than advertisers of Amazon's goods. As Tim noted, this is effectively saying that any company may suddenly be forced to collect taxes if they just advertise on a website based in a certain state.

In response, Amazon has wasted no time in suing New York State, claiming that the law is unconstitutional, noting that it's "overly broad and vague," while also noting that it's clearly designed to squeeze extra taxes out of one specific company: It probably doesn't help NY state's defense to hear that state officials even referred to the law as "the Amazon tax."

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    EdK, May 2nd, 2008 @ 1:07pm

    amicus curiae brief

    I hope amazon kicks NYS' butt!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    shanoboy (profile), May 2nd, 2008 @ 1:36pm

    Re: amicus curiae brief

    I second that. Take em to the cleaners Amazon!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Mike King, May 2nd, 2008 @ 1:52pm

    Amazon Tax

    This sounds like something that Hillary Clinton did. Maybe she should explain it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    thane, May 2nd, 2008 @ 1:56pm

    Hold on a minute...

    If the RESELLER AND BUYER are in NY then Amazon SHOULD collect the sales tax and pass it on to the RESELLER to pass it on to the state. If I buy a used book from a reseller in NY and I LIVE IN NY - I would expect to pay NY sales tax just like I would if I bought it from their own (non Amazon) fronted store.

    I know this is a headache for Amazon but not that big of one.

    That said - the NY law IS overly broad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    bug-a-boo, May 2nd, 2008 @ 2:03pm Tax

    I hope that wins. NY needs to spend more time on where they are wasting tax dollars vs. squeezing more out of others.

    Do you really think that Hillary has time to sabatoge her campaign with that bill? Maybe you should look up who created and who are the bill backers before you start pointing fingers at Hillary. And No, I am not a Hillary supporter, I just don't like it when people say things based upon a pure guess and need to blame someone they don't like. Of course, this will make you upset that I said this because nobody likes being wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Michael G., May 2nd, 2008 @ 2:41pm

    Its coming...

    Here's how its going to finally go. Someone in Congress is going to pass a legation to finally tax the internet commerce trade, and anyone out there not expecting it is a complete jerk, and what he or she is going to do its start with a really small tax on internet commerce, a penny or two. He/She is going to plead their case about all the taxes 'All Us Americans Are Losing' and the public, as stupid as they can be sometimes, is going to go for it. Hell, Its only a penny. Within a few years that penny is going to pass 10% of the price of the product you buy on the internet and president Clinton is going to realize how much money she now has stocked away and she starts another war, with...ahh...China because they now control the free market and a Clinton can't have that. Whew, where did that come

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    sonofdot, May 2nd, 2008 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Hold on a minute...

    That would be almost correct, if your fictional reseller were acting as an agent of Amazon, as the reseller could then be construed as a physical presence. However, that's not the case -- the reseller is not an agent of Amazon, therefore Amazon has no physical presence in the state and is thus not required to collect sales tax. The buyer might be required to pay use tax, in lieu of sales tax.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2008 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Tax

    What's really funny about that comment that you responded to was that if Hillary had actually introduced and gotten passed a bill that forced Amazon to pay sales taxes, it would be constitutional because she's in the U.S. Senate and the federal government has the ability to force companies to pay sales tax in other states. Commerce clause and all that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Dan, May 2nd, 2008 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Hold on a minute...

    The reseller DOES charge tax, I just got a bunch of stuff for a new camera i got from amazon, and some of the lenses came from J&R, located in manhattan, for which i was taxed. The rest was tax-free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Doug, May 2nd, 2008 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Amazon Tax

    Hillary Clinton Does not have any thing to do with NY state tax law. She is US Senator!DUH! Where do U dummies come from?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Doug, May 2nd, 2008 @ 3:15pm

    Re: Re: Tax

    Maybe? But the tax would go to the FED not the STATE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    sonofdot, May 2nd, 2008 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Re: Hold on a minute...

    The reseller collected the tax, not Amazon, although Amazon may have collected the sales tax on behalf of the reseller. The reseller is in NY, you're in NY, the reseller is obligated to collect and remit sales tax. In this case, Amazon would remit the taxes collected to the reseller, who would then be responsible for remitting the taxes to the state. This situation is not the same as what the state of NY is attempting by targeting Amazon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Doug, May 2nd, 2008 @ 3:26pm

    Re: Its coming...

    Its unconstitutional to tax the press don’t remember the test case, its an old one but did read it in law school.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Dr. Klahn, May 2nd, 2008 @ 5:10pm

    This is what happens ...

    See! This is what happens when the NY Attorney General isn't allowed to party with hookers!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    some other guy, May 2nd, 2008 @ 5:54pm

    Re: Re: Amazon Tax

    Senators just do stuff related to law that covers the whole of the US (Federal law?) then, and not any stuff to do with the law of their state?

    (Not from the US)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Lives in New York, May 2nd, 2008 @ 7:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Amazon Tax

    Theres two tiers of the legislative branch. One is the State legislature and the other is the Federal legislature. State senators and representatives set state wide laws and rules, where as federal ones set federal laws and rules. The person you quoted didnt differentiate between the two. Senator Clinton is a federal senator.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2008 @ 9:16pm

    Amazon Rocks! You got my support!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Joe, May 4th, 2008 @ 2:38pm

    Amazon owes the country something

    Targeted taxes suck; they're unfair and inefficient. But the problem is that chambers of commerce and other business lobbyists fight the FAIR taxes, too. Eventually something comes down the pipe that affects one company or industry more than another because it's politically effective (but still exceedingly difficult) to split the business lobby.

    I'd like to see the businesses that oppose illogical taxes on business talk about what they ARE willing to pay to be socially responsible members of society. We don't hear too much of that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Tom in Oregon City, May 4th, 2008 @ 4:20pm

    Now, now, be a good little CopperTop....

    Look, NY just wants the money. Most states that have sales taxes have companion "Use Tax" laws, that require NY residents to pay the same tax rate on purchases made out of state, and brought into their home state. And nobody pays them. So NY wants the big national e-tailers to pay the tax, because the residents are rebelling.

    Remember "The Matrix", where everybody is just an energy supply for the machines? Well, that's what taxes are: energy for the "machine". And the state doesn't like it when their little CopperTops don't give them all the money they want.

    Think NY is bad? Imagine the shock of tourists in Maine, where the state has begun to levy sales taxes on tourists who bring high-value vehicles -- boats, RVs, planes -- into the state, and stay longer than 20 days. Now even roaming CopperTops aren't safe, and they can't even vote to oust the legislature that's hammering them.

    Time for a Tea Party, I think. I don't like being thought of as a power supply for a government that doesn't listen very well.

    Bastiat was right: people love to use the power of government to take from others, who can't defend themselves. And that's just sick and twisted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Online Entreprenur, May 6th, 2008 @ 5:42pm

    Boycott NY... NOW

    I am boycotting sales of all items to all residents of New York. On my shopping cart is a notice that no one for New York state will be served, the contact information for David Patterson via email and phone. You don't have to buy anything, but you can see my example at - you don't have to buy anything, just drop something in the shopping cart. This piece of political vandalism has got to be stopped. Yes, this will hurt my business. It will hurt every online business if no one fights back. I challenge every online business to step up and boycott. This will NOT GO AWAY BY ITSELF, and other states WILL follow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2008 @ 4:26pm

    I sell books on and have noticed many orders from the same person over a period of time. I have discovered they are amazon resellers. Since I`m in wisconsin and I may ship a book to california, this reseller is in georgia. Who pays the tax? I`m not paying the CA state tax but the guy in GA better be. If he`s not, the last thing I need is for California trying to collect state tax from me. Any comments?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Eyepee Freely, Jun 6th, 2008 @ 5:46am

    Re: Re: amicus curiae brief

    I third that! This law is way to convoluted and completely BS! I hope it gets thrown out!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    dave in ny, Jun 28th, 2008 @ 3:10pm

    Its coming... by Michael G. on May 2nd, 2008 @ 2:41pm

    You guys are all missing the big picture here.I already have my income taxed by the fed and state alike.Which is a double tax on my income to begin with(unconstitutional) if I remember my constitution correctly.Any other additional tax beyond those to should be automatically put to death because of it.These bureacrats should be given a forced lesson as to what is written in that piece of paper they swore to uphold upon entering office.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    taxhater, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 9:54am

    Many online merchants have already dropped NYS sales tax including
    Why don't have the guts to do so too?
    They are losing lots of business on behalf of NYS residents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2008 @ 11:53pm

    Re: amicus curiae brief

    New York higher ups have gone crazy! Raising prices on everything! Now they want to tax companys that is not in New York. I dont see why one would have to pay NEW YORK STATE TAX if they are not a company in NY. AMAZON I HOPE YOU WIN AND NEW YORK IS FORCED TO GIVE BACK ALL THE MONEYS THE WRONGFULLY CHARGE CUSTOMERS!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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