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Business group: Amazon skirting Ga. tax code

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Amazon.com headquartersA prominent retail trade association on Wednesday called on online giant Amazon.com to begin observing a new state law requiring internet retailers to collect sales tax from Georgia shoppers.

In October, Georgia became the tenth jurisdiction nationally to modify its tax framework to muscle internet retailers to begin gathering the state’s 8 percent sales tax from shoppers, just as local establishments are required. The measure only took effect on Jan. 1, but the world’s largest online retailer has so far refused to comply.

The brick-and-mortar-boosting Alliance for Main Street Fairness said Amazon considers itself “above the law” and was skirting the new provision to the detriment of local businesses.

“Georgia’s small business owners collect and remit the state’s sales tax everyday from their customers,” Sean Donnelly, the group’s local spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday. “For some reason, Amazon.com believes they are above the law and play by a different set of rules.”

Donnelly said the online giant is preserving their advantage over brick-and-mortar establishments, even it means breaking the law and hurting local businesses.

“Clearly Amazon.com is doing everything they can to protect their unfair advantage over local retailers, but it is time to put a stop to this special treatment once and for all.”

The taxes gathered by online-only retailers would add $16 million annually in government revenue, according to state projections.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that Amazon has refused compliance with the new measure, but legal experts with whom the paper spoke believe the online retailer defiance will trigger judicial review of the law.

“My inference is that they feel comfortable challenging the legislation, probably with good reason,” Richard Pomp, a professor of law at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said. “They probably feel comfortable not collecting … They may feel very comfortable they’re going to win this one.”

But supporters of the law, like the Georgia Retail Association, are prepared for litigation. The group’s president said last week it may sue the online retailer if it continues not collecting the tax.

Lawmakers, too, have begun reassessing the law in the wake of Amazon’s noncompliance.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson introduced on Monday a legislative fix to refine the existing mandate and to require an annual accounting of the tax collection.

- James Richardson