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Amazon now charging Juneau buyers sales tax


Amazon, the internet retailer that swallowed Main Street America, is now charging Juneau consumers the 5 percent local sales tax on most orders being delivered inside the Borough. It appears to be a voluntary change, since there’s no federal or state legislation to force such an action.

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The city could get millions a year from that sales tax collection, although no one knows how many sales to Juneauites are conducted through the Seattle-based behemoth. Once the remittances start coming in, that will become more apparent.

The change came about Jan. 1, but was not noticed by the City and Borough of Juneau Sales Tax Office until after several Juneauites reported that their orders were being taxed.

The Sales Tax Office contacted Amazon and verified that it does indeed have a registration and sales tax collection requirement placed on most orders shipped to Juneau.

The new policy of collecting sales it’s the result of corporate restructuring within Amazon, according to the Juneau Tax Office.

Prior to Jan. 1, 2019, a subsidiary of Amazon already had a registration and sales tax collection requirement under the CBJ Sales Tax code. Then, some corporate restructuring led to a larger portion of Amazon’s business enterprise with that requirement under Juneau’s sales tax code.

As a result, Amazon collects an extra 5 percent on the majority of orders shipped into Juneau, money that will be remitted to the city.

There’s a workaround, for now. If you buy an oil filter for your car, you can find a vendor that is a third-party to Amazon, and they are still not charging the tax. Some Juneauites report to MustReadAlaska that they are not having difficulty getting everything they need delivered right to their door, and are avoiding the tax.

Currently, retailers that only conduct internet sales and have no brick-and-mortar presence in Juneau are not yet subject to CBJ sales tax.

This would include retailers like LL Bean or Dave Smith Auto, which don’t have stores in Juneau. A gun from Cabela’s purchased online would avoid the sales tax, because there is no local Cabela’s outlet in the capital city. But if you order a gun from Sportsman’s Warehouse, it would be taxed because there is a Sportsman’s Warehouse retailer in Juneau.

One hitch is that Amazon is not calculating for exemptions. For instance, the local senior exemption for tax on food is too in-the-weeds for Amazon. It’s taxing everything the same.

Amazon owns the exclusive copyrighted software to be able to coordinate and calculate local sales taxes. Amazon has lobbied to get other vendors to be forced to collect local and state sales tax, which would require those other retailers, many of them smaller companies, to buy the Amazon-owned software. Ka-ching!

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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