Why California is circling the drain: the Amazon Tax Effect

August 16, 2011

I’ve written before of the self-defeating, bloody-minded stupidity underlying my state’s recent passage of a law forcing internet retailers with in-state affiliates to collect sales tax. (The “Amazon tax,” for short.) A few days ago, Portfolio.com provided a good example of the unintended consequences of this law with the story of a young, successful entrepreneur who left for Texas because the business environment here wasn’t worth the trouble:

Unnecessary Paperwork: The state mandates that all businesses that gross over $100,000 a year set up an account where they report quarterly on the sales tax that customers pay for goods sold. Although her company sells services, which are not taxed, rather than goods, the state told Douglass she would still have to fill out the laborious paperwork four times a year.

  •     “When I closed the account (by going into a local office and spending nearly an hour explaining my situation), they forced it open again and sent me a nastygram explaining that I would owe fines for not filing the quarterly report,” wrote Douglass.

High Taxes Plus Business Fees: The state charges an income tax of 10 percent on all income over $47,055, which comes on top of federal income tax of 25 percent on income over $34,000. On top of that, state residents pay sales tax ranging from 8 to slightly over 9 percent.

  •     “I paid enough in income tax for 2010 to the state of California alone to hire another new worker for my business,” wrote Douglass.

The state also charges an annual fee of $800 for a business to be a corporation in California.

The Amazon Tax: The final straw for Douglass, though, came when Jerry Brown, the state’s governor, signed a budget that included the so-called “Amazon tax.” The argument is that if Amazon has affiliates in California it has to collect sales tax. Douglass, who sells products on Amazon as a modest side business that yields a “few thousand dollars per year,” is one of the affiliates. Amazon cut California affiliates out because of the law, and according to Douglass, both she and the state of California lost out because of Brown’s move, since she paid income tax on the money she made via Amazon.

Douglass notes that she chose Texas because because it is one of only four states (the others are Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming) that has no personal income tax, plus no corporate income tax.

(Emphases added)

In other words, not only did a state desperately in need of new jobs lose out on at least one (and how many others at other companies?), but the state didn’t just not get new revenue, it lost existing revenue, an outcome anyone with sense would have foreseen.

Times are bad enough without Sacramento aiming a shotgun at the state’s feet and pulling the trigger.

via Big Government

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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