published Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Traditional retailers criticize Tennessee/Amazon deal

NASHVILLE — A national group of brick-and-mortar retailers criticized an agreement announced today by Tennessee and Amazon.com, saying that letting the Internet retail giant wait until Jan. 1, 2014, to begin collecting sales taxes is too long.

“If Amazon can agree to start collecting the sales tax in one year in California, why should we have to wait one day longer in Tennessee?” asked Mike Cohen, spokesman for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness in Tennessee.

“How many Tennessee jobs are lost, how many Tennessee businesses will close because the state grants Amazon a huge price advantage by not having to charge sales taxes?”

Under the deal struck by Gov. Bill Haslam and Amazon, the company would begin collecting sales taxes in a little more than two years, absent congressional action requiring all Internet retailers to begin collecting sales taxes.

Cohen said the agreement is a “step in the right direction but it’s too late. This gives Amazon an additional [holiday] season without collecting sales taxes, putting traditional retailers at a disadvantage,” he said.

Traditional retailers would like Amazon to begin collecting sales taxes as soon as the company’s distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties open this fall. Cohen said at the least, the moratorium on sales tax collections should be just one year, like a similar deal struck by California.

Haslam plans to enshrine the Tennessee agreement through legislation next year.

Cohen said Alliance for Main Street Fairness in Tennessee would oppose any such legislation.

“If they run a bill, at this point we plan to fight it,” he said.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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dfclapp said...

I would find the crocodile tears of retailers like Walmart (cf "Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price") amusing if they weren't so disguting. If any company is the epitome of throwing their weight around and despoiling small retail outlets it is Walmart. Fortunately, they are brick & mortar retailers and can't pretend otherwise.

I doubt the local distributor for Amazon in TN will change Amazon's shipping policy for customers or prices in any way, meaning that the local retailers lose absolutely nothing by their presence. Amazon, who still does not have a retail outlet in TN no matter how much the greedy or envious want to squint at the distribution centers, is merely a scapegoat for a wide range of Internet retailers who provide both low prices and convenience.

There is an old joke about the complaint that the rich eat cream and the poor are left with sour milk. A "wise" official proposed solving this problem by a decree that cream will henceforward be called sour milk and sour milk will be called cream. As Amazon notes, the level playing field will come with Federal action that puts ALL Internet retailers on an equal footing, not by squinting at distribution centers and declaring them retail outlets.

October 6, 2011 at 2:46 p.m.
rolando said...

“How many Tennessee jobs are lost, how many Tennessee businesses will close because the state grants Amazon a huge price advantage by not having to charge sales taxes?”

Mr Cohen, that is the most idiotic thing I have heard in a month [outside the White House gang].

Amazon has been in business for years, charging NO sales tax and providing FREE shipping [in most cases], so how can a delay be a disadvantage to you and your lobbying cancerous growth on the public?

Next thing you will want is for everyone to charge the same highest price for the same product. That's known as "price-control" or "price fixing" and seriously damages the public interest. [Although it would probably put WallyWorld out of business...]

It is simple -- you and those for whom you speak are still in business, Mr Cohen, long before Amazon paid any sales tax... and long before it had a distribution center in Tennessee.

It is simple -- whether imposed today or in 2014, when Amazon begins collecting Tennessee sales tax, I change to another online seller without a distribution center here. A 10% lower price solely because no sales tax is collected is significant.

The Legislature can cut costs elsewhere -- TennCare, subsidized housing, free cellphones, bridges to nowhere, unionized/holdup artist public workers, subsidized farming, etc., etc., are examples.

October 7, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.
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