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March 10, 2010
Amazon's Retailing Black Eye

It never occurred to me I avoided paying Pennsylvania sales tax in purchasing books from Amazon.com. When you think about it, Internet purchases are definitely a problem for cash-strapped states, and Amazon looks more than a little beastly in "firing" all its Colorado affiliates because of a sales-tax dispute there. 

With retailing moving increasingly to the Internet, a legitimate question should be raised on the obligations of Web-based businesses siphoning cash from states without paying sales taxes to them. This issue arises in the year of a new U.S. Census that emphasizes the common ties we all have, Internet retailers included, it would seem.

What are the public -- not to mention public relations -- obligations of companies doing business by wires and cables across the country without paying sales taxes, as in Amazon's case, to advise customers that they owe the tax?

Stores with a physical presence have to collect sales tax anyway; it's only those functioning from the ether that don't, which gives them a further competitive advantage, say, over local booksellers. 

The Colorado law isn't even focused on Internet affiliates, yet Amazon has cut its ties with them apparently to make a tactical point. However, when is bullying good PR?

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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