My husband and co-founder Steve and I have been long-time fans & customers of Amazon. I love what your company brought to online retail, and I love what you’ve brought to our home in particular – books, children’s toys, electronic devices, the kindle, streaming movies, the Amazon Visa card. For awhile you were even keeping us stocked in diapers, with new diapers arriving almost faster than we would realize we were running low.
When we launched Parents Guild we transferred our love of Amazon as parents into a love of Amazon as small social-good website creators and business owners. 100% of Parents Guild’s meager revenue comes from users clicking on links to Amazon in our posts and buying something.
Well, that should be past tense. It seems California decided to enact a tax on sales from affiliates in the state of CA, and your company is so upset and petty about it that you dumped us the minute the law passed. You sent us this letter:
For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of California residents. Unfortunately, a potential new law that may be signed by Governor Brown compels us to terminate this program for California-based participants. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers – including but not limited to those referred by California-based marketing affiliates like you – even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state.
We oppose this bill because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It is supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside California, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action.
As a result, we will terminate contracts with all California residents that are participants in the Amazon Associates Program as of the date (if any) that the California law becomes effective.
The thing is, Jeff, that we are Californians. Paying taxes to our state benefits us and our family. If we didn’t have you, we would shop more at local retailers that DO pay taxes in California and DO reinvest in our local area. The more successful you are, the less our money stays in the area and the fewer funds we have for our local infrastructure.
I understand our messed up legislature may have (ack!) overstepped the Constitution here by attempting to tax interstate commerce, but it really does seem that you’ve been profiting unfairly on some outdated laws – why should businesses that do pay local taxes be forced to compete with businesses like yours that don’t, especially now that you can get me the same item instantly? Should we abolish all sales tax or level the playing field and find a legitimate, business-friendly way for everyone to pay it?
And why should your disagreement with my state government cause you to reneg on our mutually-profitable relationship? More to the point, if I was really depending on revenues from sales I sent your way to keep Parents Guild running, is grandstanding for political points and a couple of dollars in lost profit worth shutting me down (and all my small, independent, family-supporting, social-good-making peers that depend on the Amazon Affiliate ecosystem you created)?
Rather than slamming the little guy, your loyal customers and partners, in hopes we’d take up arms against our legislature, couldn’t you have considered just charging the requested sales tax and taking up the battle in court with the people you actually have a disagreement with – the ones who can do something about it?
Andrea Klein Lacy
co-founder, Parents Guild
UPDATE (4/22/13): And now, after years of lobbying against online sales tax, it seems Amazon WANTS to pay sales tax. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/04/22/178407898/why-amazon-supports-an-online-sales-tax-bill?utm_source=NPR&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=20130422 And this is how business (and consumers and taxpayers) are played, folks.