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Rhode Island Affiliates Banned From Amazon.com Sales 532

Rand Huck writes "Amazon.com has now added Rhode Island to its blacklist of affiliates in response to its proposed budget changes to enforce a tax on Internet sales, which includes commissions on their affiliate program by content providers based in Rhode Island. The first state to be blacklisted was North Carolina, for the same reason. If you go to a Rhode Island-based or North Carolina-based website that advertises Amazon.com goods as an affiliate, that website will no longer have the goods available because otherwise Amazon.com would be forced to pay sales tax to the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations or the State of North Carolina. The state's rationale is, if someone clicks to buy a good from Amazon.com via a site based in Rhode Island, it's equivalent to buying a good from a brick and mortar chain store located in Rhode Island."
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Rhode Island Affiliates Banned From Amazon.com Sales

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  • by edwardd ( 127355 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @11:49AM (#28529317) Journal

    These are not the only states to impose this type of tax. NY requires collection of sales tax, but Amazon isn't shutting out those affiliates. If they want to make a stand, they should at least be consistent about it.

  • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @11:55AM (#28529429) Journal

    I doubt its amazon links you see spammed, they're pretty strict about bad practices. If you see such for amazon links, you can report it and they will look into it (and disable the affiliates account without payment if he has violated terms of services)

    The ones you see spammed are usually something shitty like "get 1000's of your friends click this link and earn $0.001 per click!"

  • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:10PM (#28529735) Homepage Journal

    The State of South Dakota charges a different rate per city. PER CITY. Each city's rate ranges from 2-6% if I recall correctly. Also some states (NJ, Indiana in 2007) change their rate on occasion. And then dealing with non-profit (non-taxable) institutions? That means waiting for an official tax exemption certificate, of which every state has different rules. Schools and Non Profits buy a lot of junk. A Lot. You have no idea how much man power it takes to explain why, to Betty at Podunk Baptist Church, Rural, IL - she needs to find, fill out and fax/mail a tax exemption certificate before you can process her order. And then deal with her angry pastor three months later when their order never arrives because she didn't/forgot to/sent the wrong form. This is a huge, huge bitch to deal with for companies beyond Amazon.

  • by Cidolfas ( 1358603 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:20PM (#28529931)
    I thought they were being consistent. The NY law, which doesn't get your affiliates kicked out, taxes purchases made by residents of NY. The new laws that are getting affiliates banned tax purchases made from affiliates registered in those states.

    So if you lived in NY and you wanted to buy something from an online affiliate located in RI, you would have to pay tax in both NY and RI.

    And that's the problem with it. The Commerce Clause was put in the constitution to prevent things like this double-taxing for interstate commerce. If it's not as popular in some states to tax purchases made by residents, then they're going to try to get tax money from outside the state. It shouldn't hold up to constitutional standards on the issue, but that doesn't mean it will be overturned if challenged.
  • Re:Catalogs (Score:5, Informative)

    by ptbarnett ( 159784 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:30PM (#28530093)

    Since they CAN cut off specific states, and they also calculate shipping by state, they can certainly do sales tax by state.

    It's not that simple.

    You can't just assess sales tax according to the destination state. In many states, there are local taxes as well, and it varies based on the locality. A merchant calculates sales tax based on the MERCHANT's location, and the various taxing authorities make sure he/she knows what should be collected.

    The shipping companies provide rate tables based on ZIP code, and it's a simple lookup. But, you can't even use ZIP codes to determine tax rates, because ZIP code boundaries don't necessary follow political boundaries.

  • Re:Catalogs (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thaelon ( 250687 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:34PM (#28530201)

    And that tax rate should be 0.00%.

    Not just because I'm greedy either. Lower prices due to not having to maintain a brick and mortar store are the only things that allow online stores to compete against local stores. Because if you buy it locally you get the product instantly. And they have to be sufficiently lower including shipping costs to beat out brick and mortar stores. If you take away a huge portion of their tax advantage, they start to become tremendously less profitable, and thus less viable. Without this advantage brick and mortar stores don't have much competition, and thus start charging more because they can. And you lose.

  • by GigG ( 887839 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:36PM (#28530235)
    Your entire post is just wrong. First, Amazon dosn't pay sales tax on items you buy from them in thier home state unless it is a state where they have a nexus. Second, if your home state has a Sales Tax it most likly has a Use Tax and you are supposed to pay that tax on items you buy from out of state that haven't had sales tax paid on them in the other state and sometimes even if it has. This has NOTHING to do with the Commerce clause of the US Constitution.
  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:39PM (#28530307)

    You're thinking of the Amazon marketplace stores.

    Amazon affiliates are entities who link to Amazon's site with a referral code and then get a commission based on that purchase. They're basically advertisers.

  • by geobeck ( 924637 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:41PM (#28530365) Homepage

    I generally trust Amazon more than I do the small fry sites they 'affiliate' with.

    What exactly do you mean? When someone clicks on one of the recommended books on my Amazon affiliate page*, they are taken to Amazon.ca where they can buy the book directly from Amazon. I don't handle any of their transactions, or ship any books; all my affiliate page does is give me a commission on any book that a visitor to my site may purchase if they access Amazon.ca through the links on my site. There's no additional 'trust' needed.

    *which I am not going to link here, because that would be affiliate link spam. My site is in my sig if anyone wants more information on responsible products.

  • by Fencepost ( 107992 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:45PM (#28530453) Journal
    You can't calculate tax just by zip code - if you could, it'd be simple. You have to account for states, counties and municipalities, and zip codes don't line up completely with at least the last two. Zip+4 might, but that in itself is a nightmare (Zip+4 can be down to 10 or fewer individual addresses).

    A couple of examples: I live in a suburb of Chicago that gets much of its revenue from sales taxes on malls, etc. within the city limits. Its tax rate is different from the next municipality over, but my zip code overlaps that suburb. Another example: my office is in a town that straddles the border between Cook County, IL and Lake County, IL. The Zip code at my office (in Cook) and at the hospital where I have customers (in Lake) are the same, but the tax rates differ by 3% (Cook has among the highest sales taxes in the nation, if not the highest).
  • Re:Tax 'em! (Score:5, Informative)

    by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:45PM (#28530461) Homepage

    People are short sighted and selfish. If this continues, we will have very little retail anywhere in the country in a few years, because everybody will be trying to avoid the sales tax.

    Mail order has *always been there* and always presented the option of letting people purchase out of state and duck paying sales tax. If your state has a confiscatory sales tax rate that makes mail order 7-10% less expensive, then move your business somewhere else or let your legislators know that sales tax is ruining your business.

    Oh, and it's not a loop hole. It's called the commerce clause of the US Constitution. It protects your business from being subject to the laws of all 50 US states as well as preventing states from creating tarriffs and anti-competitive laws to keep out of state competitors like you out of the market.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:56PM (#28530715) Journal

    If you buy something out of state, you're supposed to pay the sales tax to your local state and then apply for a reimbursement from the state you paid the original tax in.

    Wrong, as with most of the rest of your post. There is no such "reimbursement". If a resident of Maryland physically goes to Pennsylvania and buys something, the sales tax on the transaction is owed to Pennsylvania. There is no reimbursement, even if Maryland also demands a "use tax" on the item.

    The Supreme Court decided some time ago (in a mail order case, not an Internet case) that companies could not be required to collect sales taxes for states in which they did not have a "nexus". It's not a matter of a "tax holiday" or of Congress sitting on their behind; Congress has no obligation to act for the states in this matter. It's not a matter of enforcing state law. It's a matter of states trying to widen the definition of that "nexus" beyond what the courts have accepted in the past. It probably won't work, but Amazon isn't willing to get into a court battle over it. Newegg, on the other hand, after initially collecting New York tax, ceased doing so after consulting their lawyers. NY has apparently not taken them up on the challenge.

  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @12:57PM (#28530733) Homepage

    Well, there's 50 state sales tax rates, plus thousands of county and tens if not hundreds of thousands of city sales tax rates. Plus special districts. And not all of them line up on ZIP code boundaries, in many places part of a ZIP code's inside a city (subject to city sales tax) and part is outside (exempt from city sales tax). And then you have the fun of exactly what items are taxable (and it's not binary, in many places items are classified differently by the different taxing authorities so just because an item's subject to state sales tax doesn't mean it's neccesarily subject to city sales tax). And those rules change, so just because the rules say one thing this week doesn't mean they'll say the same thing next week.

    So how does a business get an authoritative answer (one it can rely on in a court of law) for any arbitrary address? And how does it get notified by all those taxing authorities when the rules it needs to follow change? One of the principles of law is that the people who have to obey the law must be able to know what they need to do to obey it, and while I see all these states making lots of noise about businesses being obligated to follow the law I don't see them setting anything up to tell those businesses what the law actually says. And it's the responsibility of the goverment involved to tell the businesses what the law requires, it's not the business's responsibility to guess at it.

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @01:03PM (#28530919) Journal

    Proposition 13 isn't the problem, it really isn't. The problem is the state legislature which continues to add socialist benefits to socialist benefits.

    The Political Beast eats its own, creates an unsustainable welfare state, paid for by exorbitant taxes. We currently have Sales taxes fast approaching 10%, chasing the merchants from the state. Brick and Mortar shops cannot compete with Amazon's sales tax free setup, even if the prices are the same, and you include shipping!

    We wouldn't be in this problem if the legislature (Democratic LOCKED)got off its fat ass and started to CUT spending on programs that do nothing but ensure voters vote for (D) candidates.

    Oh, but that is "taking away from the poor", and we can't do that! Well, with that attitude, eventually everyone left in the state will be "poor" with nobody left able to pay the taxes needed to support them.

    Hell, I'd move if I could afford it, and I might not be able to afford NOT to shortly.

    How is it, that the solution that most people think of first is "More Taxes" rather than "cut spending" ??? When is it ENOUGH????

    And lets not "fix" healthcare until they can fix the economy (HAHHAHA).

  • by tibman ( 623933 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @01:27PM (#28531425) Homepage

    Found an article about companies and taxes.. it was one of the sources in the Amazon.com WP article i think.

    Nvidia at 2.2% tax: http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/04/0423_corporate_taxes/22.htm [businessweek.com]

    Boeing at 3.2% : http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/04/0423_corporate_taxes/18.htm [businessweek.com]

    Amazon.com at 4.1% : http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/04/0423_corporate_taxes/15.htm [businessweek.com]

  • by Machtyn ( 759119 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:02PM (#28532035) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, the "no sales tax" only works for those who don't live in a state that houses an Amazon warehouse. Fortunately, for me, the Amazon orders arrive very quickly without having to pay the premium shipping costs.
  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:11PM (#28532219) Homepage Journal

    Of course it's legal. It's called "collecting sales tax," and it's legal everywhere in the US for a retailer to do so.

    And let's not call it anything else, because we do not want to confuse the issue.

  • by Gallamine ( 610774 ) <`moc.skeegtobor' `ta' `mailliw'> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:41PM (#28532719) Homepage
    >generally trust Amazon more than I do the small fry sites they 'affiliate' with.

    I think you're a bit misguided here. The "small fry sites" you're referring to are sites, like mine [gorobotics.net], that link to Amazon products in exchange for a cut from Amazon. It's huge marketing for Amazon, and a tidy revenue for me and others. But not now. I'm in NC and I got screwed. Amazon hasn't killed people *selling* products, they've just cut off people that are doing free advertising for them.
  • by greyhueofdoubt ( 1159527 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:53PM (#28532907) Homepage Journal

    >>I generally trust Amazon more than I do the small fry sites they 'affiliate' with.

    I agree. I remember the first time I unwittingly ordered 5 things from 5 different vendors. I sat there for over two weeks wondering why one package showed up two days after my order while another took 15 days. And the quick package did me no good because all the things were for one project.

    Nowadays I either order everything from Amazon proper, or I go directly to the affiliate's storefront since they probably specialize in other things that I'm looking for at the moment.

    Still, it's annoying to get a tiny box of slide covers from houston and another tiny box of slides from somewhere in New Jersey 5 days later.


  • by SignalFreq ( 580297 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @03:30PM (#28533405)
    Hawaii [forbes.com] is now banned also.
  • by weiserfireman ( 917228 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @03:46PM (#28533601) Homepage
    Amazon started litigation to fight the New York tax that is ongoing. By refusing to do business there, they would lose the legal case because they would be admitting the tax is legal.

    They are taking the position they have in other States, partly because the States are smaller, and partly because they would be forced into more litigation over the same issues they are fighting in New York. I would bet their lawyers believe they will eventually win in SCOTUS and then they will restore their old practices.

    But, in March of this year, SCOTUS refused to hear a case from New Mexico involving Dell. The New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled in that case that Dell's use of contractors to provide Warranty Support was enough of a nexus to require Dell to collect New Mexico Sales Tax.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @03:50PM (#28533675) Homepage Journal
    "Fortunately, for me, the Amazon orders arrive very quickly without having to pay the premium shipping costs."

    I always get the free shipping thing myself...and deliveries don't take all 'that' long for me. I don't live in an Amazon occupied state.

  • by kalel666 ( 587116 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @03:58PM (#28533787)

    And my infrastructure pays for parks I enjoy, roads I use, schools which educate the people around me so that they don't all turn to street crime, police to deal with the ones who do, etc. Taxes buy me civilization.

    I don't believe that is true, at least not according to this:

    In 1984, the Grace Commission was formed by President Reagan to examine where tax revenues disappear to inside the great government money maw. The commission reported that none of the money collected by income taxes paid for services - all income-tax revenue serviced the national debt. The commission said that one third of income taxes,

            . . . is consumed by waste and inefficiency in the Federal Government as we identified in our survey. Another one-third of all their taxes escapes collection from others as the underground economy blossoms in direct proportion to tax increases and places even more pressure on law abiding taxpayers, promoting still more underground economy - a vicious cycle that must be broken.

            With two-thirds of everyone's personal income taxes wasted or not collected, 100 percent of what is collected is absorbed solely by interest on the Federal debt and by Federal Government contributions to transfer payments. In other words, all individual income tax revenues are gone before one nickel is spent on the services which taxpayers expect from their Government.


    Granted, its a 25 year old study, but I don't imagine the situation has improved.

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @04:43PM (#28534471)

    MOD PARENT DOWN. God, how the hell did this get so high? Read all the other replies, this is about Affiliates and not the Market place.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @04:45PM (#28534493) Journal

    You mean "it's easy to not pay sales tax and get away with it".

    You are required to pay the sales tax to the local government where you live.

    Actually, it's unconstitutional for any state to charge sales tax on goods bought from another state. What you're describing is the "use tax" that many states have as a "work-around". Sadly, the days when people cared about the constitution seem to be behind us.

    The only reason that online retailers don't charge you is because they would need to know and keep up with the tax laws of hundreds or thousands of locations, and set up payments to them. It would be prohibitively complicated.

    Actually, that's trivial - you just buy software that does that for you. Plenty of "whole store" turnkey computer systems manage this, both the local sales tax and the local income tax by store address (you'd think it would be by ZIP code, but Philly has tax districts smaller than ZIP codes).

"It ain't over until it's over." -- Casey Stengel