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Slate: Amazon's Tax Stance Unfair and Unethical 949

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretend-it-was-an-oil-company dept.
theodp writes "We've talked before about Amazon's reluctance to collect sales tax, with Jeff Bezos going so far as to say it's unconstitutional. So it's not too surprising to see Amazon support a California referendum to repeal sales tax for online retailers. Slate's Farhad Manjoo loves buying from Amazon and would hate to pay higher prices, but says the e-tailer 'has no intellectually sound arguments against collecting taxes from residents — by all ethical and civic standards, its position is unsound.'"
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Slate: Amazon's Tax Stance Unfair and Unethical

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  • Living in Wonderland (Score:1, Interesting)

    by frankxcid (884419) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @11:40AM (#36749244)
    I am always floored how intelligent educated people will argue for something as ridiculous as people being under-taxed. There is no way a person can really believe that it would be more fair if more taxes are collected simply on the fantasy that if etailers are punished somehow brick retailer will get more customers? Do people really forget that any activity that is punished with more taxes will reduce. On the other side, brick retailers will not see any increase in business from taxing etailers unless their own taxes are reduced. The belief that fairness is that all parties get punished equally is the fundamental flaw in liberal ideology. I hope Amazon has the balls to fight this and them tell the California Government to F- themselves as they sell their products only to the other 49 states if they were loose.
  • by I'm not really here (1304615) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @11:47AM (#36749380)

    I'm a small business owner. I sell to the 48 contiguous states and D.C. Right now, I have to be aware of any sales that occur in PA, and also have to be aware of any sales to people in Philadelphia specifically, because I must collect different taxes for each case. This is enough of a headache for a one person operation, but I make enough from the side business to make it worth the effort. I expect there are tens of thousands more like me, if not hundreds of thousands. We all are making an extra % of income from side businesses, collecting the tax for our state, and allowing other states to require their citizens to pay a Use tax on products they order across state lines. This is logical, and fair to businesses, as the burden to a business with one or two employees of having to keep track of the taxes in each county, borough, municipality, city, town, hamlet, and commonwealth in each state would be so extreme as to make nearly all small businesses either close shop or stop selling across state lines (and to cut one's audience to 1/50th the size almost guarantees going out of business in this day and age).

    Now from my limited understanding of the economy, it would seem that a sudden disappearance of say 5-10% of income on hundreds of thousands of people in the 50 states could negatively impact our economy. Suddenly, I'd not have extra money to spend on entertainment and services (the only things our economy really produces much of at this point), and therefore those services would no longer be collecting taxes from me, and therefore the government would lose money. Seems pretty straightforward to me that to force the business to handle all of the tax legwork for all states in which they sell a product would kill any and all small businesses from selling anything on the internet, and would cripple the larger online businesses, eliminating the grease that makes the wheels of our economy turn.

    Am I wrong here? I know I'd have to simply close up shop if a law required me to keep track of all 48 states' tax laws and all the tax intricacies of the various towns and sections of those states. I can't imagine I'm in the minority here.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @11:49AM (#36749408) Homepage Journal

    One thing I've always wondered is why California needs so much money to operate.

    Here in NH, we've got no sales tax and no income tax. Our overall tax burden is among the lowest in the US (sometimes *the* lowest, depending on the year), so yeah - our property taxes are high but not high enough to make up the difference.

    Despite this dearth of income, we manage to keep the roads plowed, the schools funded, and the streetlights burning.

    So what part of the economic model is different for California? Do they have more road per person to maintain? Are there more criminals per person so that they need more jails? Do they have social services we're missing (universal healthcare)?

    Are coastlines more expensive than inland borders?

    There's a lot of economists (student and hobby) here on Slashdot. I just don't see the difference in models.

    What am I missing?

  • by Snarfangel (203258) on Wednesday July 13, 2011 @12:50PM (#36750642) Homepage

    A sound property tax system (unlike California under Prop 13) is probably a much better idea for most state governments, housing bubbles notwithstanding.

    Actually, a sound property tax system would not only provide a much more stable source of funding than income and sales taxes, it would eliminate housing bubbles (which are really land value bubbles). See Land Value Tax: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_value_tax [wikipedia.org]

    For fans of progressivity, land value is even more concentrated than income, plus it is much harder to hide in Swiss bank accounts or buy on the black market.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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