Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Amazon vs. California: Whose side are you on? [Most commented]

July 20, 2011 |  2:52 pm


Amazon.com, "the octopus of cyber-commerce," is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would exempt it from collecting California sales tax -- the same system that was created in the early 20th century to stop the railroads from clutching politics in their steel tentacles, Op-Ed columnist Tim Rutten  wrote Wednesday. The company is unfair competition to California merchants and is shamefully avoiding collecting sales tax, including using subsidiaries under different names, to avoid having a physical presence in the state, Rutten said.

The company does have an advantage in seeking a referendum, according to Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. People generally vote "no" when they’re unsure about something, and that would accomplish the purpose of the measure, Rutten wrote. However, Amazon risks soiling its name with consumers with this political battle. Here's an excerpt from Rutten's column:

Worse will come for the company when Californians, hard-pressed by these desperate times, begin to consider the implications of a highly profitable multinational corporation operating in this callous fashion.

If Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and chief executive, has a spare moment there in Seattle, he might go on his website and buy a copy of Norris' "The Octopus." (As a resident of Washington state, he'll have to pay sales tax.) In any event, he might skip to the end of the first chapter and consider how it might feel to have Amazon regarded as the poet-narrator describes the Southern Pacific:

"The leviathan, with tentacles of steel clutching into the soil, the soulless Force, the iron-hearted Power, the monster, the Colossus, the Octopus."

Readers, passionate about online shopping and taxes, entered into their own battle on our discussion board.

It's a sales tax, not a tax on Amazon

I don't think it is right that Amazon refuses to collect CA sales tax on its goods. If you sell in the state, you should have to account for taxes - just like every other business that operates in the state. Claiming they don't operate in the state is a pure lie. If I purchase their product, my butt is sitting in California, so that is where the transaction is made.

I don't shop through Amazon anyway. I much prefer a brick-and-mortar store, where I can get actual customer service if something gets wrong and if I preorder a high demand item, I get it the day it comes out and not a month and a half later. And yes, that did happen to me, that was when I wrote them off for good.


The question isn't the tax, it's who has to collect it

The comments here reflect the idiocy of the public.  Apparently you folks think that if you sit at your computer and order something from Amazon---you don't owe sales tax.  That is simply untrue....you do owe sales tax on anything you buy in California.  The only issue here is whether Amazon is going to collect it and pay it to the state or whether YOU are going to pay it directly to the state.  Obviously what Amazon knows is that all you little dishonest buyers AREN"T going to pay the tax you owe.... So explain to me why assisting tax fraud is somehow a lofty corporate goal or how you rationalize criminal behavior...


California is shameful, not Amazon

California's shamefully high sales tax rate is uncompetitive.  California deserves what it gets.  California's shamefully high gas tax makes it more expensive to go to brick and mortar store.  When is California going to make is a fair playing field.  California's shamefully high business taxes and worker's comp insurance rates force brick and mortar stores to charge more than Amazon regardless of the tax.  The tax is the scapegoat for all of California's woes.  Get real Rutten.  You can buy stuff cheaper when you're in Vegas or Phoenix.  California politicians make their brink and mortar stores uncompetitive.


California politicians are the octopus, not Amazon

Tiny Tim,

The corrupt octopus controlling CA is not Amazon, with booming sales & happy customers.

It is the parasitic CA gov't, working for gov't unions & illegal aliens, that all see the middle-class as tax slaves.

That's where most CA tax money goes, that's why many buy from Amazon & that's why Amazon's proposition will pass, to shield us from the CA gov't tapeworm.

The day CA goes bankrupt I will celebrate, & parasitic Lib's like you will weep.


Don't reward California's incompetency

I'm with Amazon on this one, only because of our state government's incompetency should not be rewarded. 


It's easier to blame Amazon for the people who don't pay their taxes

The responsibility to pay sales/use tax rests with the residents of California, not with Amazon.  Amazon doesn't owe any tax.  Why blame Amazon for merely refusing to act as a collection agent for California?  Where is the indignation directed at the residents of California who don't pay tax on their out-of-state purchases?  It's much easier to blame Amazon.


California should go after Californians

I think some of you guys missed the point of the article.  It is about taxes that are due.  The CA Law does not enforce taxes that are not already on the books.

Just as people who buy online are SUPPOSED to declare their own taxes when they file taxes.  But only 2 people I know do this.

So the State can go after the individual users - punitively, or they can just have Amazon collect the taxes that are SUPPOSED to be paid anyways.

Remember the transaction is not tax free, it never has been.  You are suppose to pay taxes on it.  

I don't understand why the state doesn't just go after the individual purchasers and just ask Amazon to turn over the invoices for all sales to CA Addresses.


 *Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.


Figthing fire with money

Are you an online tax cheat?

Amazon to California: Drop dead!

Ted Rall cartoon: Busting Amazon's chops

--Samantha Schaefer

Photo: A box from Amazon.com on the porch of a house in Golden, Colo. Credit: Rick Wilking/Reuters

Comments ()