TN Amazon customers required to pay taxes, but hard to enforce
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - If you shopped on Amazon.com last year, you've likely gotten an email from the company over the last week saying you owe taxes on your all of your purchases from 2012. Many are questioning why they owe it, and if they really have to pay it.
Last year, Governor Haslam signed a law saying Amazon doesn't have to start collecting sales tax until 2014. In return, Amazon agreed to notify customers they're still required to pay it.
Tennessee's Consumer Use Tax for out-of-state purchases isn't new, but Amazon's notices of the law just started last year. Online shoppers Channel 3 talked to are confused and unhappy about it.
"At first I thought it was spam. I didn't think it was realistic. I thought it was some kind of virus," Amazon customer Michael Simpson said.
But the email from Amazon is not a hoax. It filled Tennessean's inboxes over the last week-, showing how much you ordered from its site last year and directing you to the state's web site to fill out a special return to pay taxes on all those items.
"It was $48 and some change. (Reporter: Plan on paying it?) No. Not at all. I'm not worried about it at all," Amazon customer Yahaira Galagarza said.
It seems a lot of people have that same attitude. That's because, in the notice, Amazon explains they don't give their customers' spending info to the state. That makes it tough to enforce.
"You're giving me the option to pay a tax or not. Which one am I going to do," Galagarza said.
"Legally, the individual would have the obligation. Beyond that, we get into the morals and ethics of the individual," UTC Economics Professor Dr. Bruce Hutchinson said.
Many say they don't feel unethical, arguing it's just not worth the hassle.
"Normally I would just pay it and not be bothered by it, but I don't see the reason of collecting 60 cents," Simpson said.
"Might be wonderful for the state of Tennessee because they've collected another dollar, but they've imposed enormous relative costs on the business/individual," Dr., Hutchinson.
Others say they refuse to pay because it's too expensive in one lump sum.
Channel 3's Facebook page is filled with opinions on the matter.
Bob Hendrix saying, "I don't think so. Was not in my purchase agreement."
April Demilio writes, "Good luck collecting TN. Your taxes are too high. Lower your taxes and people might start shopping in TN."
Dorita Sanders Kesley says, "My problem is it should tell you this when you purchase. Not a year later. That ups the price and they seem cheaper when comparing."
According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, several thousand people did feel morally and legally obligated last tax season and paid the consumer use tax after Amazon sent notices out-- adding up to $6.3 million.
Governor Haslam projects the state will generate $35 million when Amazon starts collecting taxes at the time of purchase in 2014.