Here’s news that’s on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times — Amazon fights California sales tax requirement — and which made NPR’s national Morning Edition show this morning– Amazon Cuts Ties With Calif. Affiliates To Avoid Tax — that directly affects me, and Locus Online. The latter title tells the story. California just passed a new budget that includes provisions for collecting sales taxes from online vendors, such as Amazon.com. Amazon has retaliated, as it has done in other states where such laws have been passed, by simply cancelling their contracts with their affiliates, in order to avoid the provision in such laws that apply to online vendors with a ‘presence’ in such states.
I have had a affiliate association with Amazon.com for a decade or more; all the links on book titles and covers on the Monitor and Directory pages go to Amazon, so that if you click on them and subsequently buy those items, or anything else for that matter in the same Amazon session, I get a percentage commission.
These commissions are typically $200-300 a month. Nothing like living wages, but enough to cover my personal book expenses, in most months.
That will now all go away. I can see the state’s position; it should collect sales tax where applicable. I have a bit of sympathy for Amazon, who if compelled by such laws to forward sales tax to states would have to set up some elaborate system to keep track of which state each order comes from, and the applicable state sales tax laws; complicated, no doubt, but surely no more complicated than all the tracking and recommending functions built in to every Amazon search. I’m less in sympathy, obviously, with Amazon for simply cutting affiliates, cutting off their nose to spite their face — they will lose sales from affiliates who longer bother to link to them. And the state too, is not necessarily in a winning position; they think they will gain sales tax revenues, but they will lose the income tax revenues from affiliates like me — and 10,000 others, according to those articles — who did get 1099 forms from Amazon to report their income to the IRS and pay appropriate taxes.
Not sure if there’s any clear resolution. I’ll continue to post Amazon links as I generate new pages, as much to avoid the work of re-coding my databases than anything. One solution would be to move to a new state. Or rehost the website’s affiliation in some other state, somehow. Hmm.