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Taxing On-Line Sales

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If you’ve done some online shopping since the calendar flipped to 2017, you may have noticed your total at checkout was higher than expected.

“If you live in Louisiana, the next time you go to Amazon and buy something, you can just add 10% to your bill,” state Treasurer and U.S. Senator-elect John Kennedy grumbles.

But Louisiana Revenue Secretary Kim Robinson says the explanation is very simple: “Amazon has voluntarily agreed to collect taxes here in Louisiana.”

Part of the reason Amazon is doing so is because state legislators passed a law during the first special session last year.

“It was modeled after a provision that was enacted in Colorado,” Robinson explains. “The federal Court of Appeals upheld the Colorado act. The Supreme Court denied writs on the Colorado appeal. So, the requirement that an online company has to submit a list of all their customers to the state Department of Revenue has been upheld.”

Prior to this, state law simply required taxpayers to self-report online purchases and remit sales tax. If they don’t do so, Kennedy says, that should be the department of revenue’s problem.

They ought to go enforce the law, if they think the money’s due. But I’ll tell you why they’re not gonna do that: because it’ll make people mad. And instead of them doing their own job, enforcing the law, they want to make Amazon be the bad guy.”

The online company’s collection of Louisiana sales tax is anticipated to increase state revenue by $30-million a year, which seems to displease Kennedy.

“You’ve got to ask where this money’s coming from,” the senator-elect says. “I can tell you where it’s coming from. It’s not coming from heaven. It’s falling out of taxpayers’ pockets.”

He also objects to it for another reason.

“If you give government the right to get money as a result of people’s interaction with the internet, government will never stop. And they’ll kill the internet, sooner or later.”