Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Some Thoughts On Online Taxation

One of the attractions of using Amazon.com to purchase anywhere from books, videos, office supplies to sporting goods, clothing and music is the fact that I don't have to pay any sales tax on any online purchase and if the total exceeds $25, shipping is free as well.  There is this ugly fight in the State of California over Amazon customers and sales tax collection.  Where this showdown is headed, who knows but I did look today on my Amazon account activity and I find it hard to believe that it's been at least 11 years since I made my first online purchase.  In 2000, when I'm just starting to get comfortable with the concept of online shopping, here's what I ordered:

1) 7/19/00 - "Richard Scarry's Best ABC Video Ever" - Ok, to me it's obvious, Sam just turned two and Richard Scarry was a well-worn videotape by the time we donated it to Goodwill a couple years back.
2) 8/18/00 - "The US Intelligence Community" by Jeffrey Richelson - This was a good, fun read for anyone in the aerospace industry.  Richelson was the author of another popular book that a co-worker recommended at the time.
3) 10/5/00 - "The Red Violin" DVD - I saw the movie at the theater but decided that I should get a copy for my birthday.  I had seen the movie at least a dozen times and at some point, I think I ordered the soundtrack as well.

Fast forward to last month when I placed my latest Amazon order and obviously, the kids are now 11 and 13 and I've already bought several art books online.  Gone is the VHS videotape format, DVD is now the predominant movie format and mp3 is the audio format of choice.  However, the printed book is still king, despite electronic books and such.  My last 3 orders are as follows:

1) 8/8/11 - "Art In The Streets"  by Jeffrey Deitch - I had to get this book discounted at Amazon after seeing the MOCA Geffen Contemporary exhibit of the same name.
2) 8/13/11 - "Geek Wisdom" by N.K. Jemisin - Some things don't change, ok.
3) 8/13/11 - "The Complete Twilight Zone Collection" DVD Box Set - Sometime between 2000 and 2011, we got the entire X-Files TV series on DVD.  The kids are just beginning to appreciate the simplicity of the Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone.  Each episode is a bite size 20min of TV that the kids and I can watch.

As some point, I should probably calculate the overall taxes I would have paid in the last 11 years based on all these Amazon purchases.  And I can see why Amazon is fighting this sales tax law because, I for one will think twice about online purchases if I'm taxed for every item.  However, I can also see why the mom-and-pop stores are for the sales tax in order to level the playing field. Only time will tell who wins but I have a hunch, it's not the consumer.

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