Tax Justice in Hawaiian shirts

The Amazon vs. California Taxes, Round 2.648: How dare Amazon use our messed up referendum for their own selfish gain. Well, okay, that’s all our referendum system is used for, but how dare Amazon use it for that. Geeze, that’s…that’s messed up! But what are others saying about this (and what are they wearing)?

“The referendum is in limbo until Monday, when Attorney General Kamala Harris (KAMALA! ed) must rule whether the referendum is proper. If she clears it, Amazon can start gathering signatures.

“Whichever way she rules, the losing side could end up suing.

“I’m sure there will be litigation on this,” said Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Whittier.

“Calderon, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and several area retailers crowded into Swanberg’s on J, a small midtown clothier that specializes in Hawaiian shirts, to blast Amazon’s sales tax stance. By not collecting the tax, Amazon is harming brick-and-mortar retailers, they said.

“‘It’s a fairly big issue,’ said Swanberg’s owner Lauren Lundsten, wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.
Democratic lawmakers say Amazon’s referendum against sales tax is unconstitutional
, by Dale Kasler, Sac Bee, July 15, 2011

and then,

“The following provision of the California Constitution will get much scrutiny over the next few weeks (and months) as Amazon seeks to overturn the requirement that they collect sales taxes:

“‘SEC. 9. (a) The referendum is the power of the electors to approve or reject statutes or parts of statutes except urgency statutes, statutes calling elections, and statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for usual current expenses of the State.’

“That’s from Article II of the California Constitution. While a quick reading would indicate that Amazon could not, in fact, put the tax statute to a referendum, quick readings don’t always win the day. And while Amazon’s attorney, Steve Merksamer, spouts off about how the right to referendum is ‘sacrosanct,’ it isn’t quite that simple either.”
Is Amazon’s Referendum Constitutional?, by Brian Leubitz, Calitics, July 15, 2011

but before that…

“The new California law alters Amazon’s tax status by redefining what it means for a business to have a presence in the state. In a 1992 decision, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court ruled that an out-of-state company can only be forced to collect sales taxes from a particular state when the company has a ‘substantial nexus’ in that state. Merely selling goods to residents through the mail does not meet the “substantial nexus” test, the court said. California’s law expands the state’s definition of ‘retailer engaged in business in this state’ to include any company that has an office in the state, any company that sets up relationships with marketing affiliates in the state, and any company that designs products in the state. Each of these conditions applies to Amazon.”


“Though I doubt most voters would care to pick apart such a populist message, such a sound bite falls apart under scrutiny. For example, the idea that Amazon is an “out-of-state” retailer in California is a complete fiction. Amazon owns several subsidiaries whose primary offices are located in the state. Within a 30-minute drive from my home, I can visit some of Amazon’s most important divisions—A9, which builds its product search engine, is located in Palo Alto, while Lab 126, the Amazon office that designs the Kindle, is in Cupertino. Amazon has also repeatedly claimed that the California law is unconstitutional, but it has not (yet) filed suit against the measure. I suspect it’s afraid it might lose on the merits—that any judge who hears that Amazon builds its most successful product in the state will declare the company to be as Californian as Apple Inc.”
Amazon Wants To Save You Money. Should shoppers care that its position on state sales tax is unfair and unethical?, by Farhad Manjoo, Slate July 12, 2011 (via)

Sounds like Amazon’s doing real, physical, hands-on type business in California, to me.

Amazon wants to save you money by bankrupting your State and your local businesses. I would say shoppers who bother to think about this for a moment (take your time, shoppers) will say NO, hell NO. Oh, and by the way, shoppers, if the Board of Equalization (BOE) of CA (the sales tax office) catch you not paying use taxes (that’s right, CA sales tax on those Amazon and, sigh, Overstock purchases and other non-CA taxed purchases) there’s a $20K fine and penalties on top of what you owe. So, which is better? A little sales tax on your internet purchases or being disemboweled by the BOE? Think about it shoppers; take your time. And, no, alas, I don’t have a link to the $20K fine on the BOE site. I believe it’s there, but I’m afraid to look for it. So I just pay my fucking use taxes once a year and sleep well at night.

Oh, and you jilted Amazon affiliates? Powells Books in Portland (7.5%) and Barnes and Noble (6%) have generous affiliate programs and they collect taxes in CA. I’ve been with Powell’s Partner program for six or seven years. I switched when I found out (from the late much missed how much Amazon gives to the Republicans. 51% of their giving is 51% too much for me to stomach. So I’m with Powells and sleep well at night.

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