Amazon tax coming for Georgians, state official says

Georgians using Amazon.com will soon pay taxes on their purchases, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal said, but talks on the start date continue.

“We expect Georgia to be collecting this tax in a reasonable amount of time,” said Brian Robinson, the governor’s spokesman. “The state has the authority to collect the tax. We’re negotiating from this position.”

Robinson said he expects more details, including the timing, to be laid out in coming weeks.

Robinson said he could not say if talks involve Amazon bringing facilities and jobs to Georgia, as it has done in some other states in exchange for a delay in collecting sales tax. But Robinson said the state would “welcome any new jobs” that Amazon might bring.

Amazon should have started collecting taxes from Georgia purchasers at the start of the year, as mandated by a law that expanded the state’s definition of physical presence to include online-only retailers like Amazon. But the retail behemoth has ignored the law so far.

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The state estimates that if online-only retailers collected the tax, it would add an estimated $16 million annually to Georgia’s coffers.

For Georgia store owners, the issue is a matter of fairness. They claim websites like Amazon have an unfair advantage in attracting sales if they do not collect sales tax.

“Our members would want those online sellers not collecting the tax to do it immediately,” said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Georgia Retail Association. “The law’s very clear.”

Amazon has not returned repeated phone calls seeking comment, but people familiar with the company said it likely thinks it could challenge the constitutionality of Georgia’s law. It makes sense for Amazon to reach deals that delay collection in states while allowing the company to build its infrastructure, though, as Amazon moves toward faster delivery and federal legislation that would require national tax collection is debated.

Georgia would rather negotiate with the retailer than go to court, Robinson said, calling litigation “an inefficient use of taxpayer resources.” To reach a deal, he said, would mean that the tax would be collected more quickly.

“The governor’s office is sure that we have the constitutional ability to impose this tax,” Robinson said. “What we want to do is come to a mutual agreement.”

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