Saturday, March 13, 2010

Idiocy in Denver

SO the State of Colorado wants to tax and the anti-taxers are screaming.
"... a recent study on "Amazon laws" concluded online companies would have to deal with more than 8,000 different tax computations should every state join Colorado's effort. Amazon would be nuts not to fight."

Oh, please.

What really needs to happen is a federal law that states that online merchants need to collect tax based on the destination of the package rather than on the location of the sender's warehouse.

Argue about paying taxes. I get that. Argue that taxing the local warehouse will induce Amazon to move the warehouse to a tax-free state. I get that, too. But if you argue that Amazon couldn't figure out how to do it, you're talking out the wrong end of your body. It's just silly.

Amazon is entirely run by computers. Orders are taken over the web without a single human intervening. The warehouse is run by computers that tell every worker exactly what to put in what size box and then slap a label on it. They figure out the shipping details for millions of people, millions of destinations, and millions of shipments a year. They send out email tracking details, feedback emails, follow-up emails, and a host of other automated stuff.

There are at least a dozen shipping options and at least six payment options. Each person has one (or many) different address options. Amazon must deal automatically with customs to every one of the 200-odd countries they ship to, monetary conversions for all those, multiple websites (one for each major country). You purchase details are kept meticulously and all of those records are used to build recommendations and to track your online movement.

They must deal with thousands of publishers and suppliers, each with different options, deals, and profit percentages. They have thousands of "Used and New" resellers, with all of their charges and costs, all getting 60% to 85% of their money (the rest is Amazon's cut) - and those deals change all the time.

And you're trying to claim that they can't figure out how to charge me 6% tax and send it to Vermont?

I'm actually required to pay taxes on all purchases that I bring into Vermont from tax-free locations - the snowblower I buy in NH, etc. There's a place for it on my tax form. (Or car registration - they charge the 6% to register it.) If I go to a gunshow or any convention and buy something, it doesn't matter where I live or where the vendor lives, I have to pay local sales tax. Is that destroying civilization? No. Somehow the guy manages to get a local vendor's license and tax number.

I don't like taxes and I love tax-free Amazon. I would love to do without taxes.

Just don't claim that Amazon is somehow incapable of a simple** programming task.

** Simple compared to what they do for everything else.

Article below, if it gets deleted or archived.

Harsanyi: Beware the Amazon

By David Harsanyi
Posted: 03/12/2010 01:00:00 AM MST

Tyranny is afoot. And this evil arrives in the guise of second- hand books and cheap Chinese trinkets. So beware.
Actually, if anyone ever needed an obvious illustration of how government overreach can damage an economy, they need look no further than the Colorado legislature's foolish attempt to wheedle a few extra bucks out of consumers via an Internet sales tax.
After legislation forcing online companies to collect sales tax passed, moved to protect its consumers and long-term interests by severing its ties with Colorado. Unfortunately, this meant closing its associates program, which involved an estimated 5,000 jobs.
Amazon's actions were not surprising, as it did the same in North Carolina and Rhode Island (a state, incidentally, which reportedly saw no additional revenue generated after passing a similar law taxing Internet sales).
"They've done nothing here but spit in our face," bristled Colorado Senate Majority Leader John Morse in a ludicrous rant on YouTube, wherein he went on to describe Amazon's actions as "such tyranny!"
Tyranny? Imagine that.
Since we're throwing incendiary words around, it should be noted that Morse's actions are a far better fit for the definition. The dictionary, after all, defines tyranny as "oppressive power exerted by government" or a "government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler."
Besides, Amazon does not possess the power to compel its will on any Colorado citizens. All Amazon can do is pick up and leave. The state, on the other hand, does have the ability to coerce both taxpayers and corporations.
Once you get past the hyperbole of embarrassed legislators, the argument— and it has appeal — is that there is a lack of "fairness." Why should out-of-state online stores have an advantage over the traditional stores in the state?
Well, Amazon came up with better technology, it offers better services and, thus far, it has had a far superior business model. That's why. Let's leave the slippery concept of "fairness" to toddlers and legislators.
Amazon and other similar online stores offer a near-infinite array of choices at affordable prices. Their success hurts many on-the-ground businesses, no doubt, but it also benefits millions of consumers who save money. The tax savings that consumers cull from Internet purchases will be spent elsewhere, and more than likely in brick-and-mortar establishments.
But let's not forget that legislators also packed the bill with punitive measure and mandates that resemble, gulp, "tyranny."
Not only must online businesses notify consumers to pay taxes, but they would be mandated to hand over consumer sales records, and if not, pay fines for every violation — many beyond their control.
And as a recent Tax Foundation study on "Amazon laws" concluded, online companies would have to deal with more than 8,000 different tax computations should every state join Colorado's effort. Amazon would be nuts not to fight.
Still, you can understand why some folks are mad. ProgressNow, a liberal advocacy group, has launched a boycott of Amazon, which is a fine way to make a point, though I suspect its impact will be as small as the national Whole Foods boycott (which started after CEO John Mackey had the gall to offer some constructive ideas on health care reform).
One only wishes that citizens could boycott irascible and intrusive state legislators — with their knee-jerk, ill-informed, anti-capitalist sentiment — who are willing to risk the jobs of thousands of citizens for a couple million bucks in the state's coffers.
Alas, no such luck.
E-mail David Harsanyi at and follow him on Twitter at @davidharsanyi.

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