by Chris Haire
As you know, the S.C. Statehouse recently partook in one of the most dramatic flip-flips in state history. First, they were against a bill that would grant Amazon a sales tax exemption in the Palmetto State; in exchange, the online retailer would open a distribution center in Lexington County employing 1,200 people.
A coalition of small business owners — led by the decidedly small business-crushing Walmart — opposed the deal, proclaiming that the sales-tax exemption would give Amazon an unfair advantage.
But the vote — designed to appeal to the Tea Party crowd — apparently angered more voters than it pleased.
An announcement from Gov. Nikki Haley that Walmart would be bringing some 4,000 jobs — most likely part-time jobs — to the Palmetto State over the next five years, only made some wonder if the state was engaged in a bit of you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours with the big box giant and mom-and-pop killer. In the end, the House voted again on the sales-tax exemption for Amazon. This time they approved it.
While now, the Senate has voted to allow the sales-tax exemption but with one hitch — they want the good people of South Carolina to pay more taxes. According to the AP:
In a compromise, however, Amazon would have to include a clause on the confirmation email for each purchase that the customer may owe the state sales tax. The email must provide a link to the Department of Revenue. The company must also send customers a yearly tally of their purchases, either by mail or email, and specify they could owe the sales tax on their income tax return. The information will not be sent to the revenue agency.
As you may know, if you live in South Carolina and order from Amazon, the online retailer will not charge you a sales tax. However, those making the purchases are required by law to pay a "use tax" on their purchases. Of course, few actually do.
What does that mean? Well, it means more money in the pocket books of you and me and less money in the hands of the state. I don't know about you, but that sounds like something the GOP and the Tea Party would approve. After all, aren't they always proclaiming that the government gets too much of our money already.
Apparently, Gov. Nikki Haley doesn't think so. She wants more money to go to the state bureaucracy and less to go to taxpayers. She applauded the compromise and called it "a step in the right direction," according to the AP.
Even worse, if Haley had her way, Amazon would be required to rat out South Carolinians to the state Department of Revenue. The AP reports:
Haley said Friday that "doesn't mean anything if they don't send those copies of those letters to the Department of Revenue so that they can actually enforce it. That's when we know there's true competitiveness all across the board again."
You know, I don't care if Amazon has a competitive advantage over Walmart, I really don't. Walmart already has a competitive advantage over most other retailers. What I want is the best deal. And, frankly, I don't care who offers it — Amazon, Walmart, or the guy at the corner of Meeting and Cosgrove selling a home theater setup out of a nondescript white van.