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eBay and Amazon Update Sellers on Sales Tax, WSJ Scolds States

Online sales tax
eBay and Amazon Update Sellers on Sales Tax

eBay and Amazon updated sellers this month about how they collect sales tax across the US as states enact new laws, while the Wall Street Journal chided the states, characterizing sales tax legislation as a money grab that harms small-business owners.

The newspaper’s editorial board said in an opinion piece on Monday that the Supreme Court’s Wayfair ruling last year unleashed a “revenue grab” on small businesses. “States are now testing the limits of their taxing power and creating a web of regulatory trip-wires for small businesses,” it wrote.

Online sellers are likely to agree. Even the marketplaces don’t appear to be on the same page when it comes to their policies, and because of different state laws, the marketplaces can’t implement a single policy around how they deal with collection and remittance of state sales tax when dealing with third-party transactions.

eBay recently noted two bills at the federal level designed to simplify online sales tax, but they come after years of unsuccessful efforts by some lawmakers to pass legislation of different flavors:

Below you’ll find excerpts of eBay and Amazon’s August updates (be sure to click through and read the fulltext of their announcements), along with links to more information.

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Excerpt of eBay’s August 9th Update:

“Though a majority of state legislatures have adjourned for the year, several states passed legislation in requiring marketplaces like eBay to collect and remit sales tax. With the enactment of bills in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Wisconsin, 37 states and the District of Columbia have marketplace facilitator laws that will take effect over the coming months. As the remaining states consider extending sales tax collection requirements to remote sellers and marketplaces, eBay will continue to advocate for workable tax policies which provide reasonable small business protections and streamline collecting and remitting standards across the states to avoid confusion, mistakes, and costly penalties.”

Where eBay Seller Can Learn More:
“If you have questions or need additional information on sales tax collection, please visit this eBay Customer Service site which contains guidance for individual states.”

Excerpt of Amazon’s August 13th Update:
“23 states have passed legislation that transfers the tax responsibility from you to Amazon for the products that you sell in Amazon’s store. In these 23 states 116, Amazon calculates, collects, and remits tax. Amazon’s tax collection in these states is based strictly on state legislation and there is currently no option for selling partners to opt-out. In July 1, 2019, based on changes to Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming State tax laws, Amazon began calculating, collecting, and remitting sales and use tax for all orders shipped to customers in these eight states 48. Beginning September 1, Ohio will also join the” mix.

Where Amazon Sellers Can Learn More:
“You can learn about new tax collection updates by following the stories published in the “tax” category of Seller News and in the Marketplace Tax Collection FAQ.”

Etsy Sales Tax Policy
Etsy also complies with states’ sales tax laws, it updated sellers in June. The following excerpt helps explain the challenges the marketplaces themselves have in trying to comply with legislation:

“States in the US are hoping to bring in more revenue through new taxes on their residents’ online purchases. Some have passed legislation that require online marketplaces like ours to either calculate, collect, and remit taxes on purchases made within their state, or notify purchasers by mail of their tax obligation and report information about purchasers to the State’s Department of Revenue.

“These laws continue to be introduced in various states, creating a patchwork of requirements for us and our buyers and sellers. Because each state has their own set of rules and requirements, Etsy must make a determination about how to proceed on a case-by-case basis.

“In Washington state and Pennsylvania, we were required to begin collecting and remitting state sales tax while the states simultaneously implemented these new rules. Our experience in these states so far has shown us how hard it is to properly classify the 50 million handmade, craft, and vintage goods available on our marketplace into taxable item categories. For example, sales of yarn in Pennsylvania are subject to tax, but not if the yarn is for use in clothing. Washington exempts candy from tax, but not if that candy needs to be refrigerated.”

Etsy sellers can learn more on this page of the Etsy website.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

6 thoughts on “eBay and Amazon Update Sellers on Sales Tax, WSJ Scolds States”

  1. There is seemingly no end to the ingenuity by which corrupt regimes will seek to fleece their hapless citizens. Meantime large corporations and fat cats pay little of their revenue in comparison.

  2. A bigger part of the issue than most realize is that IT costs in states like PA are skyrocketing as they offshore more work to India and receive increasingly inferior results. One out of every two people employed by PA’s Office of Administration is Indian and that percentage is growing as Americans retire or are pushed out of IT work by clueless (and useless) management. There’s nothing to suggest that the states will be able to handle the nuances of their own laws correctly now or in the future. But the costs of failure continue to rise, so they’ll continue to grasp for more of our money…

  3. Etsy made a Big Deal out of how they where reimbursing sales tax for one of my clients out of their own pockets.
    As well they should…..
    What an UNCONSTITUTIONAL mess.

  4. Etsy made a Big Deal out of how they were reimbursing sales tax for one of my clients out of their own pockets.
    As well they should…..
    What an UNCONSTITUTIONAL mess.

  5. The first real thing that struck me about this post was the phrase; “Though a majority of state legislatures have adjourned for the year,”. These guys are done for the year! No wonder nothing gets done or takes an inordinately a lot of time to get it done. I realize that they are also supposed to be working in their territories, but still. Can you imagine what would happen is we sellers had quit for the year at this point? I have worked all my life but can not conceive of this sort of schedule.

    Most of the states that have passed these laws to have all sellers collect/remit sales tax and then the venues, many of them, have been told to do the collecting and remitting. Whatever happened to the rule of small sellers have to collect/remit only if they fall into a particular situation and that is selling 200 or more items that are going to a state, or collecting $100,000 or was it $10,000? I can’t remember. But I know this, with Amazon being a marketplace ‘facilitator’ they are collecting sales tax for all orders coming from the different states. That means if and when I get a sale in Wyoming, which I haven’t had a sale there all year, even if the sale comes in for $10 on December 31, they will take taxes out of the sale. Isn’t this going against the rules that the states have mad? Yes, it is, but by designating a venue like Amazon to collect and remit the state sales tax for everybody, Amazon doesn’t care (nor do the states) how many orders we have had or how much they were for, they will collect it. The states know this and this is their work around so that they get even MORE sales tax than the legislation has said they would or could.

  6. Part of the problem is all the variables that have to be considered for each state — not just the threshold. A program for calculating sales tax with all the variables included simply does not exist at the moment. There’s no way an individual business owner can keep up with all that.

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