Amazon holiday results to show sales tax impact

Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:06am EST
 
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By Alistair Barr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Acting as a tax collector may have hurt Amazon.com, Inc's holiday sales analysts and industry executives said, but they expect to know more when the internet retailer reports its fourth-quarter results on January 29.

Best Buy Co., an archrival of Amazon in consumer electronics, saw holiday online sales increase in three states where Amazon started collecting sales tax ahead of the period.

"There was a little softness in states where Amazon is now collecting sales tax," said R.J. Hottovy, an equity analyst at Morningstar. "That isn't surprising to me. It levels the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers."

Critics of Amazon argued it had an unfair advantage because most retailers have had to collect state sales tax on online sales for years because they have stores and other physical operations in these locations.

But many states, hungry for extra tax revenue in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, introduced new laws requiring that Internet-only retailers also collect sales tax. Brick-and-mortar retailers hope the requirement will reduce Amazon's price advantage and help them recoup lost sales.

CHANNELADVISOR DATA

Amazon, the world's biggest Internet retailer, began collecting sales tax of 7.25 percent to 9.75 percent in California on Sept 15, about two weeks before the start of the fourth-quarter. Third-party sellers on Amazon.com saw a drop in sales during the quarter, compared to other states, according to an analysis by e-commerce firm ChannelAdvisor.

It also started collecting sales tax in Pennsylvania in September and in Texas in July.   Continued...

 
A zoomed illustration image of a man looking at a computer monitor showing the logo of Amazon is seen in Vienna November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger