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March 23, 2009

Amazon says it’s more equal than other retailers; court says, er, nope


It’s one of those extremely meaningful victories for consumers that the mainstream press hasn’t really followed, but thankfully Bookselling This Week — a publication of the trade group the American Booksellers Association — has: “New York State’s Internet Sales Tax provision, which went into effect on June 1, 2008, has recouped $46 million in sales tax revenue” so far. What’s more, the state expects those numbers to climb dramatically for the next fiscal year, to some $68 million.

As David Grogan notes in his report, what’s become known as the “Amazon tax” — although it actually applied to all internet commerce conducted in New York by any company with an office or warehouse here — was fought strenuously by Amazon, all the way to the state Supreme Court, where their case was rejected, and is even still on appeal.

But brick and mortar retailers have countered with a movement known as the Campaign for E-Fairness, and ABA head Oren Teicher says, “it was always about what’s fair — and that’s treating every retailer equally under existing law.” In other words, if brick and mortar stores have to ask customers to pay sales tax, why are internet retailers allowed to skip it? They’re not … now. At least, in New York.

But that could change, says Teicher: “This is not only good news for New York State, but for other states where similar Internet Sales Tax legislation has been introduced.” That would be California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Tennessee … so far.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives