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Mass. Coalition Targets Amazon in Push for Tax Fairness


A coalition of elected officials, business owners, and associations in Massachusetts is pushing for online retailers to begin paying the state’s sales tax before the fourth fiscal quarter of 2012 begins. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

Massachusetts retailers and elected officials are calling for Amazon.com and other online retailers to being paying the standard 6.25% sales tax rate. The coalition, known as the Massachusetts Main Street Fairness Coalition recently launched a new website where users can email Governor Deval Patrick and state legislators urging for “tax fairness”.

Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts , a group that represents retail businesses across the state and  is a leading member of the coalition, says that the group is continuing to gain members.

Hurst mentioned Amazon specifically because of the company’s recent opening of a complex in Cambridge, and hiring of new employees in the state. Hurst said that because Massachusetts borders New Hampshire, a state with no sales tax, retailers are left with “two strikes against them”, with regards to losing shoppers both across the border and online.

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield recently released a statement in support of the Main Street Fairness Coalition.

Rep. Bouvier said that at this point, legislators will have to support Gov. Deval Patrick to negotiate with Amazon, now that the retailer has a footprint in the Commonwealth. However, she said that for a permanent fix, a move in Congress would be most effective.

In 2009, a bill called the Mainstreet Fairness Act was filed in Congress. If passed, it would require all online retailers to pay the state sales tax in which they do business in. 20 other states have passed laws requiring online retailers to pay their sales tax.

According to Jon Hurst, Amazon recently agreed to begin paying sales tax in Pennsylvania on September 1st, and in California on September 15th. It’s his hope that negotiations between Amazon and the state will take place and a resolution will be reached before the start of the Holiday sales season at the beginning of next month.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.