Amazon.com Inc. will begin collecting state sales tax on orders from consumers in Hawaii, Idaho, Maine and New Mexico starting on April 1. In doing so it will conclude a near decade-long story about sales tax collected on online orders, regardless of whether the e-retailer selling the goods has a physical presence, or nexus, in the state.
Amazon has no physical presence in these four states and thus is under no legal obligation to collect sales tax on orders from residents in those states. It also doesn’t have a physical presence in Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming. Amazon began collecting sales tax from residents of those states during the first quarter.
In effect, on April 1 Amazon will be collecting sales tax for all states (and the District of Columbia) that have a sales tax. Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Montana and New Hampshire do not collect sales tax.
Amazon has been steadily adding states where it collects sales tax since 2011. But more typically collection began when Amazon began having a physical presence in a state, such as with a fulfillment center.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment about why it has decided to collect tax sales tax where it does not legally owe it, per federal law. Legislators have introduced numerous bills in recent years to change the law, however none have succeeded in overturning the federal law established by Quill v. North Dakota in 1992. The Quill decision prohibits states from imposing sales tax collection and remittance obligations on businesses that lack a physical presence in the state.
Amazon’s history over the sales tax collection issue is a complex one. Initially, it opposed requiring sales tax collection on web purchases. It also operated some fulfillment centers under the subsidiary company Amazon.com Kydc LLC, which Amazon.com contended was a separate entity from Amazon’s retail business and thus did not qualify it as having a physical presence, or nexus, in the state for Amazon.com orders. When Texas challenged this in 2011 by presenting Amazon with a bill for $269 million, Amazon threatened to close its one Texas fulfillment center and nix plans for another it had in the state. It eventually worked out a deal with Texas and began collecting sales tax there in 2013. It has since opened or announced plans for nine additional facilities in Texas.
As Amazon began rapidly expanding its fulfillment network to provide faster delivery to consumers, it began to change its position, and was able to use sales tax as a negotiating point when it came to building out its network. For instance, Amazon and South Carolina in 2011 worked out a deal whereby Amazon would open distribution facilities in the state but not have to collect sales tax from South Carolina residents for five years. Amazon began collecting in South Carolina in 2016.
By 2013, Amazon supported the collection of sales tax in states where it had physical presence. It supported the Marketplace Fairness Act, a bill from federal lawmakers that was intended to give states the right to require e-retailers to collect sales tax. The U.S. Senate approved MFA but it failed to pass the House of Representatives. Click here to read the latest update on federal efforts to change the prevailing law.
Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide.