Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Despite rhetoric we get about Amazon “tax,” it’s really about cheap people

Whenever I read about, or hear, people who view it as their inalienable right to not have to pay taxes when they buy something through Amazon.com, I can’t help but recall one of my high school teachers.

Specifically, a moment when – during some down time in class – she told us about a refrigerator she had just bought that past weekend some three decades ago.

THIS TEACHER LIVED in Indiana, but commuted to her job teaching at a high school based in suburban Cook County.

She specifically bought the refrigerator from a department store on the Illinois side of State Line Road, but then arranged to have it shipped to her Indiana-based home.

As a result, she got out of having to pay any sales tax on the purchase. The way she went on about this, it was clear she often did this to save herself the few bucks that otherwise would have gone toward the tax payment.

I’m not about to describe this teacher as being a “cheapskate.” But let’s be honest; this was a dodge to save some money. There’s no real high-minded, moral principle involved here.

WHICH IS SIMILAR to what I have to say about those people who think it is an affront to all that is decent about society that anybody thinks they could pay a sales tax of sorts for whenever they make an Amazon purchase.

Although for what it’s worth, the degree to which they try to moralize about this issue disgusts me to the point where I will use the word “cheapskate” to describe them.

Which is why I was concerned when the Supreme Court of Illinois last week issued a ruling that struck down the attempt by our General Assembly to have a state Internet sales tax.

As in you’d have to pay something to Illinois if you live here and bought something – regardless of where the physical entity that ultimately provides the object (Amazon itself isn’t a store or a manufacturer or much of anything).

THESE CHEAPSKATES ARE going to try interpreting the state high court’s ruling as some sort of justification for their tightwad ways!

Of course, anybody who actually reads the ruling will see that the state court’s ruling was based on the fact that Congress in recent years passed its own measure that prevents the implementation of state or federal taxes on Internet-based retailers.

It seems the cheapskates have their own supporters in Congress who passed the measure – which is NOT a permanent change in federal law. For it seems the measure is scheduled to expire next year.

It also means that federal law overrides local and state measures (a fact that ticks off the conservative ideologues to no end). Which is why the state Amazon tax is dead. For now!

THERE ARE THOSE who already are speculating that this means once the federal measure expires, the state Amazon tax can take effect again.

Unless our Congress gets into a partisan spat over whether to not to extend their prohibition on taxes so people can continue to order music, video and books on the cheap – although personally, I’ve never seen that much difference in price on the few occasions when I have used Amazon to buy something.

Maybe I’m just buying the wrong items (not exactly the kinds of things that would sell in such mass quantity that Amazon could afford to make them available at a significant discount AND still make itself a profit).

Enough of one, it seems, that its owner, Jeff Bezos, could afford to buy the Washington Post – even if no one has really made it clear what he intends to do with all the assets that come from having an extensive newsgathering team in the nation’s capital.

I’M ACTUALLY INTERESTED in seeing just what stances the Post takes on this issue in the future – although the idea of a publisher using his newspaper to tout his other business interests is such an old-fashioned concept that we certainly shouldn’t be surprised.

But if they start spewing rhetoric about a person’s right not to be overtaxed when they make such purchases?

Let’s not forget that it all comes down to a defense of the cheapskate. Nothing more!


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