States around the country are devoting considerable resources to figuring out how to get small businesses to collect Sales & Use Tax on purchases made by *their* residents, which can be burdensome to online sellers who've never stepped foot in those jurisdictions.
But at the same time, some of those states are promising enormous tax breaks or other incentives to big corporations - witness the recent backlash against the proposed Amazon HQ2 in New York City.
The point was driven home to us today by an article in Vermont Digger that provides plenty of fodder for small-biz outrage. The publication pointed to a press release
issued by that state's governor's office promoting Amazon's plans to hire remote workers for its Virtual Customer Service program - critics claimed it amounted to an advertisement for Amazon.
While it used to be all about jobs, jobs, jobs, things have changed with record low unemployment rates. Vermont, which is also experiencing a declining workforce (and tax base), hit a record low unemployment rate of 2.4% in February.
That means Vermont needs additional *workers* far more than it needs more new *businesses,* especially the kind that are not building a meaningful presence in the state.
chronicles the complaints from Vermont businesses who described their dismay that their governor would promote a company that is competing for workers that in-state
businesses so desperately need, at the same time competing directly against Vermont companies for business.
Ironically, the governor's blog published a post
a week later about the problem of Vermont's declining workforce - "We see it when businesses are unable to expand because there aren't enough skilled workers to fill well-paying jobs."
Particularly compelling in the Vermont Digger article was the voice of Michael DeSanto, who owns five bookstores in Vermont and who is looking to hire: “So now I have to compete with what Amazon is going to get for workers? I don’t think the government should be getting involved with this one way or another. And if it is, how come I’m not getting some free stuff?”
It's not that jobs aren't welcome - as a Vermont public policy think-tank pointed out, jobs that people can do from home could bring people into the labor force that otherwise wouldn't be able to work.
But as state senator Tim Ashe pointed out, there are other tech companies in the state looking for workers - "They might ask, "Should I have the governor’s office put out a job posting for me so I don’t have to pay for advertising?"" He also said it was unusual to promote a business that "helped cannibalize many small businesses in Vermont."
Contrast the VIP treatment the governments of Vermont, New York City, Virginia, etc., give Amazon with the way government entities treat online sellers, sometimes using questionable tactics.
Take this 2017 CBS News story
about the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC), "an intergovernmental state tax agency working on behalf of states and taxpayers to facilitate the equitable and efficient administration of state tax laws that apply to multistate and multinational enterprises":
"During a March trade show, Richard Cram of the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) had some unwelcome news for a group of sellers who use Amazon's (AMZN) e-commerce platform. Cram informed the sellers that they could potentially owe tens of thousands of dollars in back sales taxes to states where they had done little business. That news made some people so distraught that they broke down and cried."
Small sellers aren't asking for red-carpet treatment, most just want a fair shake.