The New York legislature has approved an ingenious new law that would force Amazon and other big-name online retailers to collect sales tax on all goods shipped to the Empire State.
Last week, the State Legislature approved a $122bn budget, and $50m of that would come from e-tailers who don't maintain New York warehouses or offices.
In accordance with a 1992 Supreme Court case involving an old-school mail order business, American e-tailers are required to collect sales tax only if they have a "physical presence" in the state where a customer resides. Otherwise, the onus is on the customer to declare the purchase on his next tax return - though few remember/choose to do so.
First proposed by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer - who resigned last month after a federal wiretap caught him with a $1000-a-hour call girl - the new law argues that an e-tailer's physical presence includes "affiliate marketers."
Amazon - which has a rather large affiliate program - has argued that this law "would be a radical departure from anything currently being done in the U.S." And Amazon is right. Nonetheless, Spitzer's replacement, David Paterson, is expected to approve it.
Like Amazon, many customer advocate groups have badmouthed the plan. It would mean customers forking over more tax dollars. But as we've said before: A state has a right to its own taxes. ®