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BOE Member George Runner

Government is greediest actor in “Amazon Tax” debate

Editorial boards and newspaper columnists are quick to assign “greed” as the motive driving Amazon, eBay and others to oppose a new law aimed at making more out-of-state online retailers collect sales tax on behalf of the State of California. But the greediest actor in this drama isn’t Amazon —- it’s the government.

You see, online retailers didn’t pick this fight. State lawmakers did —- out of misguided lust for revenue they’ll never see.

Put aside the rhetoric and consider the facts. Under the U.S. Constitution, state lawmakers can’t compel out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax unless those retailers have a physical retail presence —- known as “nexus” —- in our state. Californians are supposed to pay use tax —- the equivalent of sales tax —- on out-of-state purchases, but few do.

It works the same way in reverse. California businesses making out-of-state sales in states where they have no brick-and-mortar retail presence don’t have to register with the tax bureaucracies in those states, collect and remit sales tax or be subject to audits. In five states where Amazon collects and remits sales tax, many California… Read More