In an announcement earlier today, California “State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon (D-Montebello), and Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) joined dozens of California seniors, low-income families, people with disabilities, and health care and human services advocates” to launch the ThinkBeforeYouClickCA.org website opposing Amazon’s ballot referendum against California’s online sales tax collection legislation. The website urges people to cancel their Amazon accounts in protest of Amazon’s actions:
Every Californian has been affected by the cuts to balance California’s budget, none more than low-income seniors, students and people with disabilities. Now, online retail giant Amazon.com wants to overturn the one small victory we won this year in our campaign to close corporate tax loopholes: the Sales Tax law that would require online vendors to collect sales tax just as California’s “bricks and mortar” vendors do. This law will provide California with $200 million in desperately needed revenues to prevent further cuts to vital public services, while helping local business by closing the loophole that lets online retailers like Amazon.com undercut them.
Fight back by telling Amazon.com to play by the same rules all other California businesses do! If Amazon.com is unwilling to contribute to the well-being of our state, then we need to tell Amazon.com that we won’t contribute to their profits!
According to a related Associated Press article, Amazon has spent $3 million to support its ballot referendum against California’s legislation.
While we understand why groups oppose the ballot referendum, there is a much better solution for everyone. The Main Street Fairness Act, now pending before Congress (S.1452 / H.R. 2701), would authorize states to require all retailers to collect sales tax—which would both level the playing field for bricks-and-mortar retailers and ensure that states receive the sales tax revenue that is already due and is needed to fund vital community services. What’s more, it will make collecting sales tax easier for all businesses.
Best of all, this is something that Amazon and California legislators can agree on—both support the Main Street Fairness Act. Whether you support or oppose California’s sales tax legislation, the Main Street Fairness Act makes more sense. It makes everyone play by the same rules, prevents further budget cuts, makes sale tax collection easier for businesses, and helps keep people employed (both by letting retailers keep their affiliates and by helping local retailers stay in business).
California’s Board of Equalization estimates that the state lost $1.145 billion in 2010 because most online retailers didn’t collect sales tax. As the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 (Bellas Hess) and 1992 (Quill), the only road toward recovering that lost revenue goes through Washington, D.C., via the Main Street Fairness Act—as we have said before.
Amazon has publicly stated that it supports the Main Street Fairness Act. Amazon’s Vice President for Global Public Policy, Paul Misener, even sent a letter thanking Senator Dick Durbin for introducing the bill:
Amazon.com has long supported a simple, nationwide system of state and local sales tax collection, evenhandedly applied to all sellers, no matter their business model, location, or level of remote sales. To this end, I am writing to thank you for your bill that would allow states that sufficiently simplify their rules to require collection of sales tax by out-of-state sellers.
If you’re thinking about boycotting Amazon, consider putting your energy into supporting the Main Street Fairness Act instead. Contact your representative in Congress and let them know that the Main Street Fairness Act is the best solution for everyone. (Plus, it lets you keep your Amazon account.)