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Print 35 comment(s) - last by The Raven.. on Oct 15 at 12:39 PM


NC gonna get paid, privacy be damned
NC wants names, addresses, and products purchased for all NC amazon customers

One of the longest running battles between states and online sellers has been the desire for states to capture sales tax revenue on purchases made by its residents. As it is today, taxes are not automatically recovered by a company online unless it has a physical presence in the buyer's home state. State residents, however, are supposed to report these purchases on their state tax returns.

One of the states pressing the sales tax issue the hardest is North Carolina. NC filed a suit against online giant Amazon in April of 2010 seeking to recover what it claims to be $50 million in sales taxes that were not paid by citizens on purchases dating back to 2003. Amazon sued NC in an effort to block the request by the state for Amazon to turn over information about the buying habits of people living in NC on grounds that the information would violate the user's privacy.

Amazon and its customers in NC are getting some help in the legal suit by the ACLU with the group set to go to court this week in Seattle. The ALCU will fight the state's request for specifics on what NC customers purchased online, including names and addresses of the buyers. According to the NC Revenue Department, it, for example, is not seeking specifics about what book a customer purchased, but only wants to know if the customer purchased a book or a CD.

Amazon states that it has already provided the state with purchase details as requested without providing any information about what each of the customers actually purchased. Amazon says that if it turns over names and addresses of the NC residents who made purchases that the state would be able to link the buyer to a specific product purchased.

The ACLU wrote in a statement, "The American Civil Liberties Union will be in federal court in Seattle Wednesday, October 13 to argue that requests by the North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) for detailed information about purchases made by Amazon.com customers are unconstitutional because they violate Internet users' rights to free speech, anonymity and privacy."



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Wow.
By Denithor on 10/13/2010 11:13:58 AM , Rating: 1
For once I actually applaud the actions of the ACLU. Usually I just don't agree with them but this one is big. Keeping internet commerce tax free means keeping internet commerce viable.




RE: Wow.
By trajan on 10/13/2010 11:21:24 AM , Rating: 5
The ACLU isn't getting involved because it wants to stop internet taxation. It's involved because it wants to protect citizens' privacy against government intrusion. The ACLU has this crazy idea that maybe our government shouldn't get to know everything it wants to about our private lives.

But yes, preventing an extra few percent tax on our online purchases is much more important than civil liberties and our constitutional rights. I'm glad you can reluctantly bring yourself to agree with the ACLU for this reason.


RE: Wow.
By Spivonious on 10/13/2010 11:21:10 AM , Rating: 2
Please read the article. Internet commerce is not tax free; the consumer is supposed to report the purchase and pay the sales tax directly to the state (assuming the state has a sales tax). This suit concerns North Carolina's request to get sales data from Amazon customers in order to then go after the unpaid sales tax. If they just wanted a number and a name/address, then I think Amazon would do it, but they want specifics of the sale (book versus CD, etc.), which Amazon feels violates the privacy of their customers.


RE: Wow.
By FITCamaro on 10/13/2010 12:11:28 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. You are supposed to pay the tax on anything bought online. Few people do. Don't complain if your state tries to collect that lost tax revenue. Now they shouldn't need anything more than who you are and what you paid for the item so they can determine the tax. But any other information they shouldn't need.


RE: Wow.
By Flahrydog on 10/13/2010 1:05:50 PM , Rating: 2
I assume they want to know the type of item to determine if it is actually subject to sales tax. In MA, you do not pay sales tax on clothes or food. Without this information, the state would not only be taxing people who bought food or clothes from Amazon (which they aren't allowed to do), but also everyone could claim that they bought food or clothes (even if they bought a book or cd).

That is not to say I am for Amazon giving out this information, because I am not. But that is my take on the states reason.


RE: Wow.
By theapparition on 10/13/2010 1:03:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Please read the article. Internet commerce is not tax free; the consumer is supposed to report the purchase and pay the sales tax directly to the state (assuming the state has a sales tax).

Absolutely correct.

quote:
If they just wanted a number and a name/address, then I think Amazon would do it, but they want specifics of the sale (book versus CD, etc.), which Amazon feels violates the privacy of their customers.

Very close. As I understand it, Amazon has already turned over much of those detailed order history, but with no names. Now if they turn over the names and amounts, Amazon is concerned that the records could be linked, tying names to detailed transactions.

Sounds to me like Amazon screwed up, they should have never provided detailed order information. Only should have provided residents names and total amounts.


RE: Wow.
By YashBudini on 10/13/2010 11:05:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Absolutely correct.

But so what?

The same people who don't pay the sales tax to their state will be the first to whine that there's a new sales tax when one on the Internet finally gets issued. And they will also be the first to complain about whatever services get cut because of dropping state sales tax. Some cheese with your whine?

My question - If a state wants to tax 'Net purchases by their residents why has the Fed stopped them? It's none of their friggin' business, both literally and figuratively.


“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls














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