Governor Quinn: Forget Amazon.com. Sign The Bill, Raise My Sales Tax

Gary Kopycinski

Commentary
By Gary Kopycinski

I recently received the following "Red Alert" from Amazon.com. Along with many others, eNews Park Forest participates in the Amazon.com Associates Program. Click on Shop in our main menu, and you will go to the ENEWSPF Amazon.com Online Store. There, you can buy virtually anything in the world you want, virtually tax free.

The Illinois legislature is thinking of changing that, and Amazon.com is threatening to move out of Illinois, virtually, of course, by closing all associates’ stores in our great state. Why would they do that? For every sale made, associates get a percentage. The more links we publish, the higher percentage of each sale we receive.

I’ll admit, it’s not a huge money-maker for ENEWSPF. Right now, our yield is under $10 per month. Perhaps you don’t know we have an Amazon Store?

At any rate, if Amazon.com has to add sales tax to their sales in Illinois, they’re betting they’ll lose volume, and want to cut their losses.

Or they’re bluffing.

Here’s the email we received:

Greetings from the Amazon Associates Program:

We regret to inform you that the Illinois state legislature has passed an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that, if signed by Governor Quinn, would leave Amazon.com little choice but to end its relationships with Illinois-based Associates. You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Illinois. If our records are incorrect, you can manage the details of your Associates account here.

Please note that this not an immediate termination notice and you are still a valued participant in the Amazon Associates Program. But if the governor signs this bill, we will need to terminate the participation of all Illinois residents in the Associates Program. After that point, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, endless.com and smallparts.com nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Illinois residents.

The unfortunate consequences of this legislation on Illinois residents like you were explained to the legislature, including Senate and House leadership, as well as to the governor’s staff.

Over a dozen other states have considered essentially identical legislation but have rejected these proposals largely because of the adverse impact on their states’ residents.

Governor Quinn’s office may be reached here. [link removed]

We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and wish you continued success in the future.

Sincerely,

Amazon.com

Amazon.com neglected to include a bill number. Any good lobbying effort should include a bill number. If you’re going to call the governor’s office, you should call with the details.

So I emailed State Rep. Al Riley and asked him what this was all about.

Rep. Riley and said it was a "scare tactic" from Amazon.com. "It’s HB3659; the collection and payment of the Retail Occupation Tax on internet based sales," Riley wrote.

Here’s the language that scares Amazon.com:

Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Amends the Use Tax Act and the Service Use Tax Act. Expands the definitions of "retailer maintaining a place of business in this State" and "serviceman maintaining a place of business in this State" to include a retailer or serviceman who has a contract with a person located in this State under which the person refers potential customers to the retailer or serviceman by a link on the person’s Internet website and a retailer or serviceman who has a contract with a person located in this State under which the retailer or serviceman sells the same or substantially similar line of products or services as the person located in this State and does so using an identical or substantially similar name as the person located in this State. Effective immediately. (Emphasis added)

The bill passed the legislature on January 10 and is on its way to Governor Quinn for his signature.

Governor Quinn: Sign the bill. Please. Businesses in Illinois, and Park Forest in particular, have long found themselves edged out by Internet companies with lower overhead, giving these companies the advantage over traditional "brick and mortar" businesses. As editor and publisher as the first-ever news publication to be accepted for membership by the Inland Press Association, I can certainly appreciate the advantage online-only businesses have over brick-and-mortar.

That doesn’t mean that they — or we — should continue to enjoy those advantages.

The state of Illinois, and Park Forest in particular, have suffered huge hits with so much commerce moving to the Internet. Cook County tried to remedy this under the Stroger administration by raising the sales tax to the absurd.

That’s not the answer.

Just tax transactions made online. A percentage of those sales transactions should go to the county and municipality where the sale was consummated, that is, where the recipient item ordered was to be delivered.

Governor Quinn, sign the bill. Begin to level the playing field a bit for our in-state businesses, and bring some of that added revenue home.

This bill is a step in the right direction.