Amazon should stop dodging state sales taxes
The Seattle Times editorial board says Amazon is wrong in its dispute with the state of Texas, and should pay state sales taxes.
AMAZON.COM is a neighbor of ours — it is right across the street from The Seattle Times — and is one of our state's most successful creators of wealth and jobs. We wish Amazon and its people well, but we cannot support the company's campaign to dodge the payment of state sales tax all across America.
The last time we commented on this was on Amazon's bizarre contest with North Carolina. Amazon said it was refusing to comply with North Carolina tax authorities in order to prevent them from knowing what books and DVDs Amazon's customers bought.
Amazon said it was an argument about privacy and freedom; North Carolina said it was about the money.
We said it was about the money, and that Amazon ought to pay up. Amazon took North Carolina to federal court here in Seattle, and Judge Marsha Pechman ruled that Amazon did not have to tell North Carolina what books and DVDs its citizens had ordered, and that North Carolina was free to go after the money. It was a good ruling.
Now comes Texas — a state, like Washington, with no income tax but with a sales tax. It says Amazon owes it $269 million in sales taxes on purchases by Texas residents.
Texas can make Amazon pay if the company has a "physical presence" there. Which it does. It has a distribution center near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. So Amazon said Feb. 10 it was closing the center April 12 and skedaddling from the state of Texas. It will sell over the Internet to customers there, but it will not have buildings or employees there.
That would have been a slick strategy for the 1990s, or maybe even today for a company nobody ever heard of. But Amazon, which ambitiously named itself for the biggest river on Earth, has become what its name implies. It is the Internet's widest and deepest source of products, which makes it too big to be excused from its obligations.
Amazon is going to lose this fight. It knows this. It is trying to drag its feet as long as it can because it is profitable to do so.
Settle now and get it over with.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.