A lot of us in the US have been enjoying buying things on the Internet without having to pay state sales tax but that free ride is probably drawing to a close before too long. Signs are accumulating that state sales tax on web purchases is coming. The US Senate has endorsed the idea in an overwhelming vote of 75 to 24. The vote is non-binding but it is indicative of the governmental attitude. Something with more practical effect is a recent decision by New York’s Supreme Court requiring Amazon to collect sales tax for purchases in that state. Amazon has been in the forefront of those defending exemption from collecting state sales tax but New York is only the latest in a series of states that are taxing or trying to tax Amazon sales. In NJ where I live, Amazon has agreed to start collecting the sales tax.
The merchants have managed to stave off having to collect sales tax for longer than I thought they could. I started posting about the possibility some years ago but it’s only now that states are actually on the verge of getting revenue.
There is a point about the tax debate that is often overlooked. Theoretically, Internet purchases have never been tax-free. The question was who was going to collect the tax. The merchants have argued that collecting taxes for a lot of different states with a mishmash of varying statutes was a burden on interstate commerce. Since the merchants didn’t collect the tax, the buyer was supposed to voluntarily pay it. Of course, not many do.