My last semester begins tomorrow. (Technically, anyway. USF finally cancelled all classes a couple of hours ago.) I have all of my textbooks. Ordered from Amazon, of course, because I buy almost everything I don’t need immediately from Amazon. Why wouldn’t I? Things are almost always cheaper on Amazon. Plus, since Amazon exists solely in cyberspace, they never charge sales tax. (My understanding of interstate commerce law is that online retailers can only charge sales tax if they have a brick and mortar retail outlet in the state where the customer lives. So, for example, Old Navy’s online store can charge me sales tax, but Amazon can’t.)
Except here’s the thing, I was looking at the order confirmation emails for these textbooks and it appears that I was charged sales tax. What the hell is that about? I haven’t looked into it at all (because it’s more fun to whinge on my blog), but is this a thing? Is Amazon gonna start charging sales tax? ‘Cause I’ve gotta tell you, it will make a difference in my shopping habits. If I can buy a movie from Target or Amazon and the prices are roughly the same, I will buy from Target every time. The instant gratification that Target offers will hold much more sway over me in a world where either retailer will charge me sales tax.
Now, maybe you think I’m blowing this whole sales tax thing way out of proportion. But I’d bet that you have never lived in or a near a state that offers tax-free shopping. You may not even know that such states exist, but I assure you that they do and they are wonderful. Delaware is such a state. I’ve lived there twice and spent most of my life a mere 20 to 30 minute car ride away. I used to go to Delaware to buy damn near everything but clothes and food (considered necessities and therefore not taxed by Pennsylvania) and my old car (you had to pay PA sales tax on a car, even if you bought it in Delaware). So I have always been hyper-aware of sales tax. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with Amazon over a decade ago; shopping on Amazon was not unlike shopping in Delaware.
So, yeah, I need to look into this because if Amazon really is going to charge me sales tax going forward, I need to know. Gotta be an informed consumer, right?