As ABC reports today, Amazon.com is fighting North Carolina’s attempt to collect sales taxes that residents owe on their online purchases. This is one of several ongoing fights between the company and states trying to collect the roughly $8.6 billion they’re owed each year from Internet sales. With states laying off thousands of teachers and taking other painful steps to close huge budget shortfalls, Amazon’s actions are coming at the expense of the public interest.
The specific issues vary from state to state, as I’ll discuss in future posts. But here are a few basic facts to keep in mind:
Amazon is also challenging a New York law that requires the company to charge that state’s sales tax. (Under the new law, since Amazon pays independent New York websites to solicit business for Amazon in the state, it effectively does have a “physical presence” in New York.) An appeals court decision is expected in the next few weeks.
The good news is that there’s strength in numbers. If enough states enact and enforce laws to ensure that they receive the taxes they’re legally owed, that will help level the playing field for local shops and provide public services with much-needed support.