News Column

Amazon Sales-tax Deal Keeps Returning

Nov. 12, 2012

Donna Goodison, Boston Herald

Gov. Deval Patrick, who signed a sales-tax increase back during the Great Recession, is giving peeved Massachusetts retailers another lump of coal in their stockings for the holidays.

The Patrick administration has yet to reach a deal with that would require the nation's largest online retailer to collect state sales taxes from Bay State customers.

Retailers had hoped an agreement would come before the start of the holiday shopping season, so the online giant wouldn't have the advantage of making sales without the 6.25 percent state sales tax during the busiest retail period of the year.

"We've pretty much come to the conclusion that it won't happen for the holiday season," said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. "We've been pressing for this all year long. At first we had hoped for July 1 of this year and then, as a fallback, for the holiday season."

In late September, Gov. Deval Patrick said the state hoped to wrap up a deal "soon" with Amazon.

Under a Supreme Court ruling, online retailers must collect state sales taxes from customers only if they have operations where they live. Amazon this year opened a Cambridge software development office and bought a North Reading robotics company.

The Patrick administration said yesterday that discussions with Amazon continue. "We share the concerns of small-business owners and our mayors to help keep the business climate competitive," spokesman Alex Zaroulis said. "We also want Amazon to grow and create jobs here in Massachusetts. A congressional solution is best for everyone -- and supported by all parties. In the absence of such a solution, we have had productive conversations with Amazon officials about a solution that works for everyone, and we hope to close out those talks soon."

Amazon collects sales taxes in eight states and has agreed to future collections in seven more. If Massachusetts officials fail to reach an agreement by year's end, Hurst promises a hard push for legislative action.

"Of course, we continue to push for the federal legislation," he said. "The fiscal cliff presents an opportunity to advance (that) during the congressional lame-duck sessions in November and December."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 the Boston Herald

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