North Carolina’s tax collectors want to find out which of the state’s residents have bought untaxed goods from Amazon over the past seven years, so they visited Amazon’s HQ in Seattle and demanded the retailer turn over its records. When Amazon said no, the state threatened to sue. What it got instead was a preemptive lawsuit from Amazon that “says the demand violates the privacy and First Amendment rights of Amazon’s customers.”
The 14-page complaint says that North Carolina tax collectors…hand-delivered a letter that amounted to an ultimatum: provide customer names by April 19 or face the consequences.
“Amazon must either comply with the (tax collectors’) information request and violate the privacy and First Amendment rights of Amazon and its North Carolina customers, or refuse to comply with a request from a state agency that has stated its intention to issue an administrative summons,” the complaint says. It adds that there is “no discernible need” for tax collectors “to know the identities and other personal information linking specific customers with any purchase, much less purchases of books, movies, music and other expressive works.”
CNet contacted the state’s Department of Revenues for an explanation of how the otherwise routine audit turned into demands for private records and lawsuits, but the spokeswoman declined to comment, saying she hadn’t reviewed the lawsuit yet.