“They have acknowledged in the State of Missouri — Amazon has — that they owe state sales tax. So, we have said, 'if you acknowledge you owe taxes in the State of Missouri, we are a county within the State of Missouri, you owe county tax also,'” Thomas explained.
For the last several years, national trends have indicated that more and more consumers are foregoing traditional brick-and-mortar stores for the convenience, selection and pricing offered through online shopping.
Beginning Feb. 1, 2017, online retail giant Amazon started collecting and remitting sales tax on purchases in the State of Missouri and now political entities within the state are also hoping to cash in.
On Aug. 30, 2017, the Camden County Commission approved a fee agreement with the Williams Law Firm of Sunrise Beach and attorney Greg Williams to engage with Amazon and pursue the collection of sales tax on purchases made within the county.
It’s unclear how much sales tax revenue the county stands to gain, but the three commissioners believe it could be significant. The Missouri Department of Revenue has not yet released an estimate regarding the increased revenue collected from the state’s sales tax rate of 4.225 percent.
According to the Department of Revenue, cities, counties and certain districts may also impose local sales taxes as well “so the amount of tax sellers collect from the purchases depends on the combined state and local rate at the location of the seller.”
Camden County currently has a sales tax rate of 1.250 percent, which brings the total rate to 5.475 percent on the purchase of most retail sales, tangible personal properties and certain services within the county. Both of these taxes are collected and then remitted to the Department of Revenue, which then distributes the local sales taxes to the political subdivisions.
“Hopefully this pans out for us. It would be a big break, and based on what I’ve seen — I think it will be,” Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty said. “This is basically trying to collect sales tax on every Amazon sale in the county that takes place. They’re already paying state sales tax on those sales, we want our money too.”
Associate commissioners Don Williams and Bev Thomas were also on board to pursue the county sales tax, motioning and voting affirmatively to approve the legal engagement contract, which does not require a deposit or a guaranteed length of service. The county plans to bill the Williams Law Firm on an hour-by-hour basis, ranging from $60 to $300 an hour, depending on whether lawyers, paralegals or law clerks are needed for the work.
The contract only allows for representation on this single issue.
“They have acknowledged in the State of Missouri — Amazon has — that they owe state sales tax. So, we have said, ‘if you acknowledge you owe taxes in the State of Missouri, we are a county within the State of Missouri, you owe county tax also,’” Thomas explained.
The Amazon decision announced by corporate on Jan. 26, 2017, along with a previous announcement in December, would eventually bring the total number of states to 44 where the retailer is currently collecting and remitting sales tax.
At that same time, a California research and analytical data firm specializing in the online marketplace, Slice Intelligence, reported that 43 percent of all the revenue generated in the U.S. online market in 2016 was shared by Amazon.com and Prime Now accounts, which included sales from first and third parties.
“Even more astonishing, Amazon accounted for 53 percent of all online sales growth in the United States,” Slicer Intelligence published on Feb. 1, 2017. “No small feat as e-commerce grew by 24-percent last year, and will likely account for 10 percent of consumer sales in 2017.”
According to the report, Amazon’s growth has been driven by the purchases of electronics and accessories, home and kitchen items, apparel, food, beauty and health supplies. The report also concluded that by December of 2016, the average package was delivered by Amazon in 3.4 days compared to competitors, who averaged 5.6 days.