Officials in several states are reportedly considering ways to collect sales tax revenue from independent merchants that sell on Amazon.com and other e-commerce websites.
The Wall Street Journal reports that New York and Wyoming are already cracking down on those third-party sellers and that at least six other states are weighing their options.
State authorities long complained that online shopping cost them billions in sales tax revenue — and made efforts to force Amazon to collect sales tax on its own products. The e-commerce giant expanded its tax collection process nationwide as of April 1, but independent sellers on its online marketplace are not covered by that system.
Those sellers are an increasingly large share of Amazon's business. The e-retailer charges a commission to third-party merchants but provides sellers with access to its vast customer base and, increasingly, its rapid delivery services.
The systems under consideration by the states, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, could force Amazon, eBay and other online marketplaces to collect sales taxes on behalf of third-party sellers or require those partners to report their sales numbers to the companies.
Amazon and other websites could be required to hire more people or establish new collections operations under those proposals. Sellers, meanwhile, could see additional costs at the same time that new sales tax collection methods erode their current pricing advantage.
Sellers are also often unable to easily track product shipments and remain unsure how to comply with varying laws in the 45 states that collect sales taxes.
E-retailers, meanwhile, frequently tout the economic and employment benefits of its third-party partnerships. Brian Bieron of eBay told the Journal that reporting requirements, in particular, would "make small retail less competitive and disadvantaged."