back to article Amazon pooh-poohs (ingenious) New York net tax plan

More than happy to let the people of New York avoid paying vast amounts of internet sales tax, has spoken out against a new net tax plan from Governor Eliot Spitzer. Back in November, The New York Sun leaked word that Spitzer was poised to roll out a clever new policy that would force big name e-tailers like Amazon …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    put down the crack pipe and open a window

    > A state has a right to its sales tax

    No, it doesn't. It simply has the legal ability to gouge its residents until they revolt or leave.

    This sort of crap is why I live in Florida and not in California or New York. I wouldn't even visit California.

    America sucks. But at the moment it sucks slightly less than other countries.

  2. Dean Ransevycz

    @ Crack-whore Coward

    Boo-bloody-hoo! 'I hate governments because they expect me to pay for all of this stuff they give me!'

    Get your head out from up your arse & admit that tax-avoidence it theft from your community.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Taxing the wrong end

    I don't have a problem with states collecting sales tax, but I think they're going about it the wrong way. They should be allowed to tax at the source, but not the destination of the products being shipped.

    The last thing I want to do is keep my web-store up to date with the tax rates for the 3000+ counties in the US. However, it is much easier to keep up to date with the one tax rate where my business is located. After all, the people who buy from my web-store come to visit me, where my server is.

    Having it the other way around would give the mega-stores an edge over the little guys.

  4. Sino


    I hate that government that concocts ways to steal money from me (income tax is "voluntary according to the IRS <although many who fail to volunteer spend a great deal of time in federal prisons> while telling me that I should be happy that my money is doing good works and helping the needy.

    I do my helping by my choice through my church and do not have any desire to "help" through a faceless smarmy self righteous bureaucrat <leech is a better word>.

    That is all. Now that I have that off of my chest, I feel so liberated!

  5. Larry Peters

    Lawrence Peters


    I think you have it backwards. The inexorable taxes levied on people today is no longer for the good of the people, but for the good of the people in charge. Government doesn't tax because it needs, it taxes because it creates need. We've become less democracy and more hypocrisy. People like you are needy. "Help me, I can't do it myself mommy." Make everybody else pay for my schooling, my health, my welfare when my boss realizes I'm an idiot or lazy.

    Tell you what Dean, get a real job, like 40 hours a week of physical labor, pounding nails, or building cars, or working road crews, and then say to the government, "take my check. I'll feed my family, and cloth them, and shelter them with my next three weeks check, but you take this one and give it to some undeserving person." Wake up Dean.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    oh please

    > tax-avoidence is theft from your community

    Right-o. So how much extra did you donate to your community? Zero? That's what I thought.

    Personally, I bought tax-preparation software and spent several days determining how I can give the government as little money as possible.

    If my taxes went toward things like an enhanced space program and more research, rather than welfare for crack-whores getting money for every baby they can pop out, suppressing stem-cell research, and teaching creationism, then I wouldn't mind so much.

  7. nobby

    county-wide sales tax levies?

    for lordie's sake america, just dump the crap idea of every man woman and child inventing his own tax-rate for his own fiefdom and have a single country-wide level - the amount of administrative costs you'd save would be tremendous.

    hey! you could even print price tags that showed people the amount things cost (including tax) because it would be the same over the whole country!

    *then* you wouldn't have tax discrepancies between states and ever online store would charge the same price to all its customers. Wow. that sounds really simple to manage.

    oh well. shows i'm not an accountant eh?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Sales Tax?

    Isn't that like Value Added Tax in the UK? This is normally collected by the retailer and prices advertised are normally inclusive of VAT. If Amazon can manage this then I imagine they could handle NY sales tax easily enough. <rant> While I'm on the subject, what the hell's wrong with America? I went there once and every retailer advertises their merchandise at prices exclusive of tax. This means naive Brits gallop up to the sales till, clutching some perceived bargain, only to be stung for some extra unspecified percentage and treated like an idiot by some snooty assistant who frankly, given their position, ought to know better. </rant>

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Tight wads

    Its just greed manifested as an inability to get your wallet out. I bet these "I gave at Church" types can't even get the beers in occasionally. You really wouldn't want to meet one for drinks, it would get all embarrassing when it came to paying the bill. They would get this furtive look an slope off to the bathroom for a bit, till any chance of them being separated from their pennies/cents had passed.

    What a bunch of tight wads. Dysfunctional society anyone ?

    Saying that VAT (sales tax) is the least progressive of all forms of taxation and should be abolished for something else, carbon tax ... anyone ... LOL

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Larry Peters: wrt: education and healthcare

    "Make everybody else pay for my schooling, my health, my welfare when my boss realizes I'm an idiot or lazy.

    I thought child labour had been banned in the USA. So why are you talking about schooling after working? I've never met a child who could pay their own school fees -- why should they rely on their parents who are, after all, different people. My father was born on possibly the single worst street in Scotland to a family with very little money. But today he is living off a comfortable pension, because free education gave him the opportunity to fulfill his potential and he chose to give back to the community by working as a teacher in that same free education system, for less money than he could have got as a private-school teacher or in industry.

    His younger brother suffered a collapsed lung and serious back problems when he was just out of school. There's no way their parents could have afforded the medical bills, and at the age of 16, without a day's work behind him, there's no way my uncle could. But when Ferranti brought the first IBM 350s (or was it 370s?) into Scotland, my uncle became one of Scotland's first commercial (ie non-academic) computer programmers.

    And me -- after graduating from my CS degree, I work for a large multinational IT consultancy. My big sister is markets financial software worldwide. I have a brother working in a software company who has had two urgent visits to NHS hospitals -- the first saved his life, the second prevented him being paralysed.

    My family in now in various well-paid, important jobs that would not have been possible without state-funded healthcare and education. We have taken from society and we benefit society in return through our taxes. So a few spongers and wasters chose to take from the system -- so what? You have to dig up a lot of dirt if you want to find gold.

  11. Steve

    Re: Sales Tax?

    A more accurate comparison would be like VAT in the EU (not just in the UK). The rule is that if a business has a presence in the country of destination, it charges VAT at the rate applicable in that country. If it doesn't have such a presence, it charges VAT at the rate for the country of origin.

    When Amazon UK ships books to someone in the UK it charges the UK rate of VAT (zero). When it ships to France it charges the French rate (5.5%) because there is an

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Get a grip, Larry

    There's nothing in Dean's comment that suggest he himself is needy, and the "people like you" line wins you no friends.

    I find it hard to believe that anyone posting on the Register has a 40-hour job pounding girders into the ground. In fact the extra taxes I pay as an IT worker subsidise the lifestyles of people who spend 40 hours a week pounding girders because it is those people who can't afford healthcare and schooling and they certainly don't have the luxury of posting online during the day bitching about how "unfair" taxation is.

    I wouldn't use the phrase "dribbling moron" in polite company, but it does spring to mind.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    Tax avoidance is the legal utilization of the tax regime to one's own advantage, in order to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law. By contrast tax evasion is the general term for efforts to not pay taxes by illegal means

    as for the EU as indicated, if i buy within the UK i pay the UK Rates, if I buy from another country I pay their rates.

    as for the UK, If I currenly breath freshair I am taxed on the basis i might one day be ill, if i earn money i am taxed, if i save the money I earn I am taxed again, if i spend money I am taxed any number of Sales, Excise Duty, Road tax, Roll charges, parking charges, new car tax, council tax, or "value added tax" (apparently food and heating is a luxuary and is subject to VAT) - i would pay more taxes but the public utility companies were nationalised thus I dont pay tax as these are now private services... of course private services are taxed.

    if i die I am taxed again on any money I have or have saved and was previosuly taxed when initially earnt the money, then on any gains and then I am taxed again when i die

  14. Anonymous Coward

    @AC - Taxing the wrong end?

    "it is much easier to keep up to date with the one tax rate where my business is located. After all, the people who buy from my web-store come to visit me, where my server is."

    There's really big and obvious hole in your argument. If it was implemented, the likes of the Cayman Islands and Antigua would be sinking under the weight of web servers within about a week.

    I'm just taking a wild guess here, but I can imagine most governments not liking that very much.

  15. Steve

    Wrong end is right.

    The argument that web businesses must track thousands of tax jurisdictions is valid.

    So is the unfair price advantage remote vendors have over their brick and mortar foes.

    And localities do have the right to claim whatever sales tax the impose (don't like it move).

    So what is the solution? Simple: the delivery services know how much you spent and where you live. Have them collect the tax applied with their shipping charges. Give them a token carrying charge and the problem is solved.

    After all, the point of sale is the home address.

  16. Sean O'Connor

    Scrap it

    VAT/Sales tax is surely going to get more and more unworkable the more global our economies get. I'd vote for scrapping it completely worldwide and make up the difference with a small increase in income tax. Does anyone know why this bizarrely complicated tax is a good idea?

  17. Sandra Greer

    Don't try to make sense of the US tax system$

    (Not that yours makes sense either, but at least you have National Health and university education.) More or less accurate off the top of me head (New York resident):

    Federal Income Tax - pays for the operations of Fed Govt, especially military and Medicare (retiree health), and interest on funds borrowed to cover deficit spending.

    Alternative minimum tax (part of Fed) - originally intended to get rich people to pay at least some tax, now overcharges quite a few middle class people. Attempts are being made to fix this.

    Payroll tax - pays for current Social Security retirees (matched by employer). Currently paid only on earnings below about $100k. This is illogical, used to be worse.

    State Income Tax - optional by State, pays for operations of State govts, including State Universities (not free but less costly than Private), Medicaid (some health care for the poor), roads/infrastructure, some grants to municipalities, and other obligations including those matched or subsidised by Fed Govt.

    Real Estate taxes - generally used to pay for public (free) schools. Areas with large average holdings pay for fewer students than more densely populated areas, thus per-pupil funds are less where people are poorer, in general. There is an active movement to change this illogical funding.

    Sales Taxes - like VAT, inherently regressive, as lower income people spend virtually all their income (paying this tax) while higher income people spend a much smaller proportion of their income on taxable items. There is no sales tax on stocks and bonds, and the increase in value is taxed at the capital gains rate, generally less than the personal tax rate. Sales taxes are pretty much the only taxes that are easily controlled by the State and Local governments, so they are popular with Governors.

  18. The Mole

    Why VAT/Sales tax

    I believe the (original) idea of VAT was that it was a tax on 'luxury' items, items such as (most) food, childrens clothing, books, medical equipment etc are exempt and other items such as fuel are at a reduced rate. This is fairer than income tax as it takes into account your spending habbits not just your income, if there is a family of 2 and a family of 5 with the same income then the second family will have a lower total tax bill as they spend more of their money on necessities of life while the family of 2 will have a higher bill as they are more likely to have more disposable income to spend on luxuries.

    By taxing spending there is also the argument that someone is more likely to save - if it has a big impact however I don't know

  19. Steve

    @scrap it

    That's a fairly fundamental political issue.

    The leftist approach, taken in France and much of the rest of the EU, is to heavily tax income on a sliding scale. The government then takes that money and spends it for you on things like health, pension, public services etc. It leaves you some so you have a little discretionary spending power. Those in favour of this approach will say that it ensure that the less fortunate are looked after. Detractors will point out that it removes the incentive to work, since the state takes all your money & looks after you in some minimal fashion anyway, and so it is bad for the prosperity of the country.

    The rightwing approach, popular in USA/UK/Ireland, is to tax income as little as possible, on the basis that individual choice is important. You should make your own decisions about what you spend your money on, and only if/when you choose to spend it is tax is then collected on what you choose to spend. Those in favour will say that it encourages savings and self-reliance and respects individual choice, which is good for the nation as a whole. Detractors will point out that it reinforces inequalities.

    In reality neither one nor the other workds perfectly, so most countries go the middle course. The US still has income tax, and France has VAT, for example. Shifting the balance between them is far from simple, and is one of the reasons that a single currency (and hence fixed interest rates) will never (IMNSHO) work properly.

  20. Sean O'Connor

    Scrap it still

    Because VAT and company tax is so complicated I end up spending £1,000 a year on an accountant so I can avoid paying slightly more than that in tax. If it was all made simple I'd sort it out myself and then even if taxes were put up I could afford to pay that grand to a teacher or a nurse.

    I can understand luxury taxes on booze and fags etc... but wouldn't life be so much simpler (and cheaper) for businesses if most of them didn't have to employ an army of accountants to figure out VAT?

  21. Tom
    Dead Vulture

    Spitzer is a tool

    He would tax everything and anything at the state level and turn it around dumping it into the pockets of his political allies exclusive of communities who rejected him at the polls. He would direct state funds collected at gun point into useless projects in vain attempts to buy votes by pretending to reverse blight instead of attracting tax-paying citizens back into city centers.

    Except he would cause more problems, and hence more tax-payer flight from cities and the state in general. Hardly seems fair.

    Just wait until he hands over the University system to his cronies, and tuition leaps with no increase in performance, services rendered, or oversight. Just you shut up and pay your tax bill.

    Learn from his mistakes, free your people to spend their money where and when they like, the taxes will flow from other sources because more wealth will be created.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @ taxes are the govt's right

    you're all bloody commies, you are.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Sino & @Steve


    "I hate that government that concocts ways to steal money from me


    I do my helping by my choice through my church"

    Now what did Jesus say on the topic of taxation...? Oh, that's it: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." IE pay up and shut up.


    "Those in favour [of low income taxation] will say that it encourages savings and self-reliance and respects individual choice, which is good for the nation as a whole. Detractors will point out that it reinforces inequalities."

    Detractors will also point out the massive personal debt hole.

  24. Mark Roome

    Re: Get a grip, Larry

    So who said The Reg was polite company?

  25. Herby

    Taxes, taxes, death amd taxes

    It has been said before, nothing is more certain than "Death and Taxes". We here in California get used to it. The local rate is 8.25% on just about everything but what you eat (even some of that!). If we want a cheaper rate, we go to Oregon, which has no sales tax, or Wyoming (or Washington, where Bill lives) which has no income tax. Of course, there is the new tax from (simplified):

    How much do you make........................$

    Send it in to the Government..................$

    Remember, when someone says "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.", run away real fast!

  26. Ed

    @ Various

    "While I'm on the subject, what the hell's wrong with America? I went there once and every retailer advertises their merchandise at prices exclusive of tax."

    Because that's how things are done over here. And people accuse Americans of being the ugly tourists...

    "Federal Income Tax - pays for the operations of Fed Govt, especially military and Medicare (retiree health), and interest on funds borrowed to cover deficit spending."

    Er, I thought the Medicare tax paid for Medicare. I'm sure some of my fed taxes go to Medicare but I swear there was a line item for Medicare...

    "Waaah! I don't want to pay taxes." [paraphrased]

    Then move to Nevada or New Hampshire.

  27. Justin Clements

    Not sure why they are complaining

    Not sure why Amazon are complaining to be honest.

    Lots of out of state internet retailers are paying a sales tax on out of state sales. I paid $100 in sales tax for my MacBook whilst in Florida to Apple even though the priduct came from an Apple facility in Louisiana back in December.

  28. J


    "Federal Income Tax - pays for the operations of Fed Govt, especially military and Medicare (retiree health), and interest on funds borrowed to cover deficit spending."

    I heard it all (almost a trillion $ or something) goes to the banks, as interest. But it could be something else.

    Operations of the Fed Govt? Probably not... and how did the Fed Govt work before 1913, when the Income Tax was introduced, and the Fed Reserve was incorporated (they are NOT a part of government) around that time too, I think.

  29. Eduard Coli

    No new taxes

    Please, no more taxes.

    The middle of NY is a wasteland with no solition in sight, most businesses that could left for safer tax shelters in other states and cheap labor abroad.

    NY already had the highest taxes in the union.

    Surpassing that land of the free, California a few years ago.

    Spitzer the blitzer should avoid concentrating on maintaining that record and answer for *allegedly using the state police as his own personal errand boys and goons.

  30. Anonymous Coward


    "Because that's how things are done over here. And people accuse Americans of being the ugly tourists..."

    I was suggesting things could be done better over there. Ugly tourist? I kept my mouth shut and smiled - just needed to get it off my chest here today.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. Scott Coe

    Spitzer is Spitzing off yet again

    Really, with trooper gate, telling the legislature he was a "steam roller", Spitzer is just spitzing off at the mouth again, without regard to reality OR common sense. He was a really good attorney general, but as a governor he is just a total failure.

    Attorneys General get to ram things down peoples throats, governors need to have a little more tact than he has shown so far in his tenure.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legal argument?

    Just back to the subject for a second. If the original decision for catalog-sales said that a physical presence in the state was required, but allowed the company to pay the postal service to deliver their catalogs (advertising and driving sales in exchange for a fee proportional to the number of customers in the state), what has changed? It seems like the same situation (except the USPS is technically a part of the executive branch of the government, but would it have changed anything if the catalogs had been delivered by UPS?)

  34. Sandra Greer

    It's not the catalogs, it's the purchases...

    that the governor wants to tax. Amazon 's attraction is discounts, no tax, and free shipping over $25.

    I say sales taxes are inherently unfair and should be abolished. Not only that, if you are going to tax purchases, the tax should exclude everything except real luxuries (booze, fags, jewelry, gas guzzler cars).

    Books are to be encouraged.

    And there should be standardisation throughout all the states. (Don't hold your breath.)

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