published Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Amazon sales tax law among those taking effect in Tennessee

  • photo
    In this 2012 file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam stands near the processing line at Amazon's Chattanooga fulfillment center at Enterprise South Industrial Park.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — A law that could boost the state's revenue is among those taking effect on Jan. 1, as are statutes that govern concussions in school-age athletes and workforce development.

Starting Wednesday, Amazon.com will begin collecting sales tax in Tennessee. Under a deal struck with the administration of former Gov. Phil Bredesen, Amazon was absolved from collecting the state sales tax. Customers were responsible for paying them on their own to the state Department of Revenue.

However, the online retailing giant's brick-and-mortar competitors argued that arrangement wasn't fair.

Current Gov. Bill Haslam eventually reached an agreement with Amazon that required it to begin collecting sales tax in Tennessee in 2014. The company also agreed to build two distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties, creating about 3,500 jobs.

In addition to employment, state finance officials hope the collection requirement will shore up state revenues that have been sluggish partly because of sales tax collections that have fallen short of projections the past few months.

Amazon's sales tax collection is estimated to generate about $17 million in recurring state revenue, and about $7 million in local revenue, according to the state Legislature's Fiscal Review Committee.

Nashville resident Emily Lilley is a frequent Amazon shopper and said she doesn't mind the new law because she understands it can help the state financially.

"It seems fair when I buy something in a store I pay sales tax, and so if I'm buying something online ... it seems fair to pay sales tax there too," she said. "And I know the state can use more revenue."

In the concussion legislation, schools must adopt guidelines to educate coaches, school administrators, athletes and their parents about the symptoms and dangers of concussions. Under the measure, injured students must not be allowed to resume a sport until a medical professional clears their return.

"This is about the safety of our young people," said Senate sponsor Jim Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican who has also done some high school coaching and officiating.

The measure includes provisions requiring students to be removed from an event if they show concussion symptoms like headaches, dilated eyes or vomiting.

Antonio Adams of Memphis coaches his 8-year-old son's little league football team. He said such a law is needed because he sees how parents push their kids to be competitive at a very early age, and they often maintain that mindset when they're older and are reluctant to leave games when hurt.

"A lot of people look at kids as being very resilient," he said. "Well, kids are resilient ... but at the same time they're not robots."

Under the workforce development law, students at the state's technology centers and community colleges can combine occupational training in a high-skill or high-technology industry with academic credit and apply that experience toward a degree.

"It's a common sense approach to education and workforce development, where we align the private sector's needs with the state's ability to meet them," said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, one of the measure's sponsors.

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