from the bit-of-a-stretch dept
The New York Times reports that the state of New York is demanding that Amazon and other e-tailers begin collecting sales taxes from customers in the state by June 1 or face audits and bills for unpaid taxes. Under federal law, a state can only require a business to collect sales taxes for it if the business has a physical presence in that state. So Amazon collects sales taxes in Washington state, where it has its headquarters, but not in most other states, including New York. But New York has hit upon a novel legal theory: Amazon might not have a physical presence in New York, but many of Amazon's affiliates do, and New York argues that those affiliates constitute a "physical presence" sufficient to require Amazon to collect taxes for the state. It's a novel theory, and one that Amazon will almost certainly challenge in court. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Amazon's affiliates are essentially selling Amazon advertising space on their websites. They're not employees of Amazon any more than I become an employee of any site that purchases advertising space on my blog. If New York's interpretation is accepted by the courts, it would spawn endless litigation about which types of relationships establish a "physical presence." There's also a good chance Amazon would just cut off New York residents from participating in the affiliates program to save itself the headache of potentially having to comply with thousands of different taxing jurisdictions. Either way, nothing good is going to come from this.