Amazon sales tax for California begins in September

By Carly Cody

Daily Bruin, U. California-Los Angeles via UWIRE

Students in California will encounter higher prices when purchasing their textbooks on for their classes this fall.

The online retail company will start collecting sales tax in California beginning on Sept. 15, said Scott Stanzel, an Amazon spokesman. The change is more than a year in the making.

California currently has one of the nation’s highest state sales tax rates at 7.25 percent. Taking district and local tax rates into account, students could face up to as much as a 9.75 percent additional tax when purchasing products through Amazon, starting in September.

The tax on Amazon purchases was originally scheduled to begin in 2011. But last year, Amazon and California state leaders, including Gov. Jerry Brown, negotiated a bill to postpone Amazon’s collection of sales tax from Californian customers until this September, given that the company agreed to create at least 10,000 new full-time jobs for the state by the end of 2015.

Despite the upcoming price increases, Kyle Mark, a fourth-year UCLA student, said he would continue to shop on Amazon as opposed to other retail stores like the UCLA Store because of the better flexibility offered through their guaranteed buyback.

“I’m already invested with them (Amazon). I use the credit they give me when I sell back my textbooks to buy other items,” Mark said.

Vincent Truong, a fourth-year UCLA student, cited the cheaper prices as a reason to continue shopping on Amazon.

“Even with the sales tax, Amazon will still be generally cheaper than the UCLA bookstore,” he said.

Amazon already charges sales tax in six other states. The company could previously bypass the sales tax requirement in California.

But within the past year state lawmakers supported legislation that would require online retailers with a presence in California to collect sales tax from customers within the state in order to create equality with brick-and-mortar businesses.

In the meantime, Amazon has been advocating for a national solution that would address the question of online sales tax and create an “equitable framework” for all online companies in the country, Stanzel said.

The Marketplace Fairness Act, which is currently up for debate in Congress, would mirror California’s legislation by granting states the authority to require sales tax collection on online purchases made by consumers within their state.

Stanzel said Amazon supports the Marketplace Fairness Act because the company believes the appropriate place to settle the sales tax issue is in Congress.

Current policy, which is based on a 1992 Supreme Court decision, exempts many online retailers from collecting sales tax.

Senators who support the Marketplace Fairness Act have argued that the policy creates a disadvantage for brick-and-mortar retail stores.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, who is co-sponsoring the bill, said he found it unfair that traditional shops essentially end up being display cases for products that consumers will proceed to purchase online to avoid paying sales tax, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

Yet while legislators debate the fairness of the bill, students continue to prefer the online method of shopping for textbooks over traditional bookstores.

Even given the price increase, online shopping will still provide benefits that retail stores lack, said Anum Khan, a fourth-year UCLA student.

“The UCLA Store doesn’t always have used options. I still like online shopping because you can compare prices and I like the fact that it gets mailed to you,” she said.

Regardless of whether the Marketplace Fairness Act does not pass, California will proceed to require online retailers to charge sales tax.

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