“You may owe use tax on purchases you made from Amazon.com LLC during the previous calendar year,” reads an e-mail quoted by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The e-mail then goes on to detail the customer’s Amazon purchases for 2012 along with a link to where the tax can be paid directly to the state.
See, even though Amazon won’t be collecting sales tax from Tennessee residents until 2014, the online retailer did agree to e-mail these reminders to Tennessee Amazon shoppers.
The state says that it could earn up to $30 million this year if Amazon shoppers pay up. Of course, not everyone is willing to hand over the money just yet.
“If they want sales tax, they need to charge it at the time of the order, just like every other legitimate business,” the paper quotes one resident as saying about the tax. That’s actually not quite true, as these use taxes have been in place for more than half a century, aimed at collecting taxes on out-of-state purchases that were used by state residents. In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the state took in $6.3 million in use tax from consumers.
An company rep says that it provides the Tennessee customers with their purchasing information, not the state. Thus, state officials don’t know who spent how much on what at the website without paying taxes.
“As a general rule, there’s no information and no easy way for the Department of Revenue to come out and audit individuals,” the Amazon rep explains.
UPDATE: A Consumerist reader in South Carolina forwarded us the following e-mail he received from Amazon last week —
Thank you for being a loyal customer of Amazon.com LLC. We appreciate your business and look forward to continuing to provide you vast selection, low prices, fast delivery and convenience.
As you may know, Amazon.com LLC is not required to collect sales or use taxes in South Carolina. However, the state of South Carolina requires us to provide the following notice to you:
You may owe use tax on purchases you made from Amazon.com LLC during the previous calendar year. The amount of tax you may owe is based on the total sales price of the items you purchased during the calendar year unless an exemption exists under state law or you have already paid the tax. A sale is not exempt under state law because it is made through the Internet. The total sales price of purchases you had shipped to South Carolina in 2012 was $****. This is the amount that you may include on your South Carolina use tax return to calculate the appropriate use tax owed unless you have already paid the tax.
Thanks to Tim for the tip!