published Friday, August 12th, 2011

Gov. Haslam says he’d like to work with Amazon.com on sales-tax deal

A worker separates packages for final shipment inside the 800,000-square-foot Amazon.com warehouse in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP File Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A worker separates packages for final shipment inside the 800,000-square-foot Amazon.com warehouse in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP File Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam said today he would prefer to reach an agreement in which Amazon eventually collects Tennessee sales taxes as opposed to having state lawmakers force the company to do so.

“I would love to have an approach where there was an agreement first, where Amazon said, ‘OK, we’d like to grow and expand in Tennessee and we’ll do it according to this agreement,’” Haslam told reporters.

Pressed on whether he would say no to Amazon’s legislative critics if they tried to unilaterally impose such a deal, Haslam said, “I certainly wouldn’t like to see us do that given the commitments we’ve made to Amazon in the past. I mean, I wouldn’t like to see just us do something that they didn’t agree with.

“On the other hand,” Haslam said, “I’d like to see Amazon be flexible and realistic as well.”

Amazon is building two distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties under a deal struck with Haslam’s predecessor, former Gov. Phil Bredesen. In the deal, the Internet retailing giant would not have to collect sales taxes on purchases made by its Tennessee customers.

That was attacked in the General Assembly last session by two prominent lawmakers who sought to compel Amazon to begin collecting sales taxes once they have established physical presence with the distribution centers.

The bill was delayed until 2012 pending a state attorney general’s opinion, which later said such a law would meet U.S. Supreme Court guidelines.

For complete details, see tomorrow’s Times Free Press.

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about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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esaletnik said...

This deal that they had. Was it in writing, was it a legally enforced contract? They just took the Governors word?

You just don't trust people these days.

August 12, 2011 at 7:04 p.m.
Humphrey said...

Haslam doesn't really give a straight answer to anything, does he?

August 12, 2011 at 7:09 p.m.
Selah said...

Right on it, Humphrey. Just another wasted vote.

August 12, 2011 at 9:41 p.m.
teach_them_all said...

Amazon must not be in the "Good ole boy" "Richie Rich" club. Otherwise Haslam would say that as a job creator whose employees will boost the economy by spending their pay checks Amazon should not have to pay tax on their wealth.

August 12, 2011 at 10:25 p.m.
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August 12, 2011 at 11:14 p.m.
dregstudios said...

Billy Boy needs to stick to “governing.” Haslam is a loose cannon and is violating the Constitution at every turn with less than a year in office. This cowboy is doing everything from taking the word gay out of school to making it illegal to post images to the internet which someone may deem offensive. You can see my response to the circus Bill Haslam has made out of our state at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/07/potentially-offensive-portrait-governor.html with my portrait of our Governor and his ravishing wife.

August 13, 2011 at 9:43 a.m.
Blassmike said...

The facility in the caption is one that came about after Amazon shut down facilities in California when they tried to renege. Texas lost two major centers and plans for others when it battled with Amazon over these issues. Now all those workers are unemployed and those who were about to gain employment remain shut out. If our lawmakers do not make good on the word of this state, no matter who made it, the facilities in Chattanooga and Cleveland will be abandoned as will the newly announced one near Nashville and plans for others. Is it really worth it? Let Walmart and others fight their own battles on fair tax issues. Amazon is operating on loopholes they were smart enough to find that does not tax non cash and carry items. It's a matter for federal ressolve in my opinion. Amazon's battle is really on the behalf of its clients.

August 13, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.
OldTimer1933 said...

Until we learn the specifics of the 'deal' Gov. Bredesen made, I will reserve judgement on it. I once believed that a Chief Executive (Governor in this case) could not circumvent a law or the Legislature, but with all the twists and turns by the current National Chief Executive, it is hard to tell what thay can do.

I believe Gov. Haslam is using the correct approach of investigating the legality of the 'deal' while simultaneously working out an arrangement whereby Amazon will collect the tax in the future.

However, whether Amazon was in or out of the state, sales (or 'use') taxes are supposed to be PAID BY THE BUYER. Sales taxes are to be collected at the Point of Sale (which is the current contention by some lawmakers and businesses) while 'use' taxes (same rate as sales tax) are to be mailed to the State Department of Revenue.

There are a lot of administrative costs involved in collecting taxes and accounting for and then sending the funds AND Documentation to 'government', most of which must be absorbed by the business because these 'costs' are not usually treated as tax 'credits' but are simply deductible as business expense.

As inducements to locate or expand in certain states and communities,many companies are given certain types of 'tax exemptions' for a number of years, or other considerations, but it is better that it is by agreement than forced down one's throat, again, like so much of what the National Government did during the last session of Congress.

August 13, 2011 at 2:08 p.m.
garysmith2 said...

Since Amazon has a different business model than say Wall-Mart, they have no right to complain. If they want a "level playing field" then change your business model. If Amazon wasn't here we wouldn't get the sales tax either. Amazon being here we get jobs, corporate taxes and sales tax from those employees. Get the politics out of it and see all the real benefits we get from Amazon being here.

August 13, 2011 at 2:53 p.m.
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