NASHVILLE - A national group of brick-and-mortar retailers criticized an agreement announced today by Tennessee and Amazon.com, saying that letting the Internet retail giant wait until Jan. 1, 2014, to begin collecting sales taxes is too long.
"If Amazon can agree to start collecting the sales tax in one year in California, why should we have to wait one day longer in Tennessee?" asked Mike Cohen, spokesman for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness in Tennessee.
"How many Tennessee jobs are lost, how many Tennessee businesses will close because the state grants Amazon a huge price advantage by not having to charge sales taxes?"
Under the deal struck by Gov. Bill Haslam and Amazon, the company would begin collecting sales taxes in a little more than two years, absent congressional action requiring all Internet retailers to begin collecting sales taxes.
Cohen said the agreement is a "step in the right direction but it's too late. This gives Amazon an additional [holiday] season without collecting sales taxes, putting traditional retailers at a disadvantage," he said.
Traditional retailers would like Amazon to begin collecting sales taxes as soon as the company's distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties open this fall. Cohen said at the least, the moratorium on sales tax collections should be just one year, like a similar deal struck by California.
Haslam plans to enshrine the Tennessee agreement through legislation next year.
Cohen said Alliance for Main Street Fairness in Tennessee would oppose any such legislation.
"If they run a bill, at this point we plan to fight it," he said.