Amazon decision in California may be a harbinger
The ability of Oklahomans to buy products online and forgo paying sales taxes is a problem that isn't going away, former Gov. Brad Henry said last week. “It is only getting worse,” he said.
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It's a problem all right, for the state treasury, which loses out on millions of dollars in tax revenue, and for local businesses that find it more difficult to compete with online retailers. But government officials and local retailers may have reason for optimism that change is coming.
In California on Saturday, Amazon.com began collecting state and local taxes. Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, had long fought efforts by California lawmakers to force it to collect the taxes. Last year it reached a deal with the governor to open two distribution centers in the state and begin charging sales tax.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that online retailers don't have to charge sales tax unless the companies have a physical presence in that state. State law requires purchasers in Oklahoma to voluntarily remit the sales tax to the state, which of course rarely happens. The result is a significant loss of tax revenue each year. Some estimates place the total at $200 million or more.
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