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Amazon starts collecting Texas sales tax on July 1

Attention Amazon shoppers in the Lone Star State. Get your orders in today if you want to save a few dollars.

Tomorrow -- Sunday, July 1 -- the Seattle-based Internet retail giant begins collecting the state's 6.25 percent sales tax (plus local sales tax add-ons) from Texas shoppers.

Amazon boxes by brendan-c via Flickr Amazon boxes by brendan-c via Flickr Creative Commons

The added payments by purchasers is part of a tax deal Amazon cut with Texas officials.

In 2010, the Texas Comptroller's office demanded Amazon pay $269 million in sales taxes that the state said should have been collected on purchases from 2005 to 2009.

Amazon fought the charge for a while, employing its usual threat to close local operations, in this case a distribution center in the Dallas area. States attempting to collect sales tax on remote (that's the term for online or catalog vendors) sellers typically cite such branch locations as the nexus, or physical in-state connection, that justifies the tax collection.

But as other states have started piling on, the company has relented somewhat.

As of July 1, Texas becomes the sixth state to charge sales tax on Amazon purchases. Lone Star State buyers join those in Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota and Washington who now will see charges in the tax line on their receipts.

There is a tiny bit of sales tax good news for Amazon shoppers here in Texas and the five other sales tax collecting states. No sales tax is charged if we buy the company's gift cards instead of books, CDs and all the other products it sells.

However, when we (or the people we give the gift cards to and who live in the tax-collecting states) use the plastic to buy stuff from Amazon, part of the money on the cards will go toward sales taxes.

Hey, I did say it was a small piece of good sales tax news!

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DAC, you of course are correct in noting the use tax applies here, something I have blogged about in the past, most notably here:

But the reality, as you also noted and I've blogged about repeatedly, is that few people in states where use taxes apply, which is basically any state that collects a sales tax, pay them.

Texas tax officials have found the collection of use taxes particularly problematic because there is no state income tax here. Some states put a use tax line on those returns to try to get people to pay them that way.

So essentially, Texas taking the path of least tax resistance. It's opting to make companies collect the taxes that all of us consuming Texans should be paying. They went after a giant online retailer with the hopes that the Amazon deal will make getting taxes from other similar remote sales situations easier. They know that it's definitely an easier route than going after millions of Texans.


You begin the article with this statement: "Attention Amazon shoppers in the Lone Star State. Get your orders in today if you want to save a few dollars."

I'm sure Texas would be surprised to hear this, since "a taxable item that is shipped from outside the state directly to a Texas customer is subject to Texas use tax at the location where the customer takes delivery. Use tax rates are the same as sales tax rates." ( Of course many people do not pay this use tax, but stating that individuals can avoid paying tax by purchasing items online is per se telling them not to pay this use tax.

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