I just saw a story on CBS’s The Early Show about internet retailer Amazon.com resisting campaigns to collect sales tax for their transactions.
By not doing so, the report said, states are losing more than $11 billion in tax revenue. States are supposed to get that revenue to begin with; if you purchase online, you’re supposed to declare in your income tax return the amount of purchases you’ve made for which you haven’t paid sales tax, so you can pay at that time.
If you believe states shouldn’t force retailers like Amazon to collect those taxes at the point of purchase, you must also assume that everyone is completely honest when it comes to listing the dollar amount of purchases they’ve made over the past year. Some of us try our best to account for every dollar; but I suspect that’s not the case for most people.
At the very least, Amazon should be forced to mail state governments (and consumers) a statement accounting for every dollar spent, similar to a W-2 form, which consumers could use to pay their sales tax at tax time, and which states could use to hold them accountable.
In this economy, states shouldn’t have to lose additional revenue like that.
But then the book stores enter the fray, complaining that not collecting sales tax gives Amazon.com an advantage.
Sorry, book stores, but in this little battle, you might as well sit this one out.
Amazon doesn’t have an advantage because it doesn’t charge sales tax: it has an advantage because it offers a better selection at lower prices.
Those two facts alone, even if taxes are collected, give the retailer extra points over book stores.
Don’t get me wrong: I like book stores. But Amazon almost always undercuts the prices of book stores. Unless it’s a book I just have to have that night, I don’t mind waiting a couple of days if I can save 30% or more. And the majority of books I want these days — the few that I’m not ordering on a Kindle for my iPad — aren’t as likely to be found in a book store. That means a special order, which gives me this choice: ordering through the book store and waiting longer and paying more, or ordering through Amazon, paying less and getting it sooner.
That’s a contest?
Then there’s one more advantage Amazon.com offers: I don’t have to pay Amazon.com $10, $15 or even $25 a year to join some stupid book club so that I can then pay a discounted price that is still higher than what Amazon.com charges to begin with.
I gave up on Barnes & Noble’s discount card a few years ago when they told me that I’d have to pay $25 a year for it. Sorry, but I have no interest in paying that much more to be able to pay less. Though B&N usually has a wider selection than most other brick and mortar book stores in my area, I’ll find a book I want there, then go to Books-A-Million, where I have their lower-priced discount club membership, and search for the book there. If B-A-M doesn’t have it, I’ll order through Amazon and save, anyway.
Amazon has been around long enough that book stores could have long ago abandoned its membership fees. The fact that they haven’t diminishes their argument about Amazon being “unfair” competition.
If the stores still aren’t willing to do away with those extra membership fees, then they continue doing it to themselves.