Fair Sales Tax Laws for All Businesses

If you’re a regular reader of the Tennessean, you probably saw this article in Saturday’s edition, which features an interview with yours truly, Laura Hill, the manager and one of the co-owners of Reading Rock Books. The article discusses the possibility of a large online store building a distribution center in Chattanooga. That big store is Amazon and one thing that they’re trying to negotiate with the state is not having this possible new facility count as nexus in Tennessee.

What’s the big deal with nexus?
Well, as it stands now, if a company has any sort of a physical presence, or nexus, in the state, that company must charge sales tax to the residents of that state. What Amazon is trying to accomplish with its dealings with Tennessee officials basically amounts to the unfair advantage of not charging sales tax.

The Amazon distribution center would be good for the state, especially the Chattanooga area, largely because of the 1400 jobs it would create. These jobs are much-needed in this time of economic distress, no one disputes that. What Reading Rock Books and other retailers in the state take issue with is the unfair advantage that the absence of sales tax gives Amazon. As Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association says in the article mentioned above, “If you buy a book from [Amazon], and they don’t have to charge (nearly a) 10 percent sales tax, that amounts to a government subsidy of our competitors.”

To be clear, no one is asking for additional taxes to be charged to consumers. In fact, it is currently the law that residents report any items bought through out-of-state retailers and remit the sales tax to Tennessee on their own.

The Importance of Sales Tax
Tennessee, like most other states, has its share of financial troubles. Sales tax dollars are needed to fund the important business that is entailed in state government and the public services it offers.

As a bookseller, I strive to keep my political ideas out of my store. I think a bookstore should be, at its core, a place where the exchange of ideas is more important than anything else, especially the particular political agenda of one bookseller’s party of choice. I don’t see my expectation that another business acknowledge and obey fair business practices as a contradiction to that idea.

Make Your Voice Heard!
If you, too, see the importance of this issue and the unfairness inherent in making the little guys follow the rules and letting the big guy get a free pass, please join me in contacting Governor Haslam at (615) 741-2001 or bill.haslam@tn.gov.

As always, if you want to shop online, but still want to support a local, independent retailer (and your state, by paying TN sales tax), our online store is open 24/7!

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1 comment on “Fair Sales Tax Laws for All Businesses”

  1. alice mallory

    Hi LAURA & AMY:

    Please look on my fb page for two links to articles from NY Times and Chicago Tribune about indie booksellers & the closing of Borders. The one from the Trib invites readers to register the name of their favorite indies through their site. (BTW, I listed Reading Rock as one of my faves! I enjoy you blog/webpage !) Wanted to share the info., just in case you’ve not seen the articles. Will look for your comments on my fb page.
    Also BTW, Congrats on your interview in the Tennessean. To add my 2¢ to the conversation, Darryl & I buy many books at the local bookstores in Oregon (where there are no sales taxes). We also purchase through Amazon. That said, I agree that the big guys should go by the same rules if their point-of-sales or services are in a state that requires sales taxes of the brick-and-mortar stores. The choice then becomes whether Amazon and other “biggies” will choose to set up in sales-tax free states, causing states like Tennessee to lose a few thousand perspective jobs (and sales taxes), while probably not decreasing the competition since they’re internet-only. I know this was addressed in the article… I just wanted to add my thoughts… It’s hard (for me, at least) to envision a really good solution.

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