Tuesday, June 18, 2013

PZ evades taxes?

A funny thing has happened. Minnesota has decided that Amazon needs to collect sales tax.

People in Minnesota were already obligated to pay sales taxes on Amazon purchases, but Amazon was not obligated to collect it.

The idea is that you buy some shiny new thing on Amazon, then send tax money to the local state authorities.

But who does that?

Minnesota decided to shut the door on tax evaders - by declaring that Amazon has a substantial physical presence in the state (due to its affiliate program) and therefore it must collect sales tax:

Minnesota E-Fairness legislation, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton [Democrat] on May 23 and going into effect July 1, classifies independent bloggers and online reviewers as a physical presence of a business in the state. This means online companies who pay these people to generate new sales must collect tax not just on those sales, but on all sales in the state.
The tax on online sales is already due, but the onus has been on consumers, who often never pay the tax. The new law puts the onus on Amazon, as long as they have a single blogger posting links to its products from Minnesota.
The state has estimated the new law will generate $5 million in new revenue, but Amazon is having none of it.
The company sent an email to associates in Minnesota, saying it will close all accounts in the state to avoid the tax.

One of the bloggers that received this email is none other than PZ Myers.

In a blog post entitled "Amazon did what?!??", PZ writes:
So…all the Amazon links scattered throughout my site will still be contributing to Amazon’s revenue stream, but I no longer get any reward for them. That’s fai…wait, no, that’s totally unfair. Is this the kind of treatment we can all expect when the New World Order of Amazon achieves complete domination of the planet? That’s worrisome.
Hey, legal people: if I were instead to have my daughter, who lives out of state, set up Amazon Associate status, and then replace the code in my links to redirect income to her, would that be reasonable? I have no interest in evading state taxes and would happily pay those, but I would be interested in evading Amazon’s punitive behavior.
Then later in the comments: 
Any revenue would still be reported (as it was on my last tax form!), but I wouldn’t want my daughter to get hit with additional taxes, nor would I like the income being double-taxed if it were transferred.
Another possibility is just signing it over to a worthy organization. I know NCSE welcomed Amazon Associate dollars.
When asked to consider stopping linking to Amazon, PZ replies:
I don’t really think that if I stop linking to Amazon, they’ll collapse and go bankrupt.
I also stopped shopping at WalMart, and I’m amazed that they’re still around.

Presumably, PZ (or someone like PZ) is not paying sales taxes on online purchases, which forces the State of Minnesota to act.

Amazon, wishing to comply with the law, can either collect the tax or end it's "presence" in the state.

Amazon can choose to invest in the affiliate program, or not invest and have the advantage of not having to collect taxes for consumers in Minnesota.

Simply by running the numbers, they chose to cut the bloggers out of the equation. Poor bloggers. Such first world problems they have.

A quick recap of PZ's arguments:

  1. It is "totally unfair" of Amazon to end his associate status, because life owes PZ money or something.
  2. PZ writes as if Amazon acted unilaterally and he was completely unaware of the law.
  3. PZ presents a way for Minnesotans to evade taxes and for PZ to take his cut - funnel money through his daughter! Myers is a real 'family values' type of guy.
  4. PZ pretends that he'd be compliant with the law by reporting the income on his IRS 1040. This is compliant in the same way an international corporation running their money through Nassau is compliant.
  5. An Amazon boycott to support Minnesota's progressive tax structure is out of the question. Boycotts are ineffective apparently.
It's interesting to watch "progressives" go full libertarian once things hit them in the wallet. One day they're voting in Democrats, the next they're running money through their daughter. For a "good cause", we're assured.

Let's also ponder the speed at which PZ dismisses the possibility of a boycott. Here we have a major US corporation that chooses to subvert the intentions of state law. "Social justice" warriors are usually all about this sort of thing, aren't they?

Boycotts were previously regarded as a strong principled stand when many stood up and boycotted TAM and boycotted CFI. When did those boycotts happen? Literally yesterday.

Maybe we should take the Atheism+ boycotts for what they are - a vain attempt to settle a score of no consequence.

This is simply another example.

When things actually matter, PZ and the Atheism+ crowd will simply roll over and ask for their hand out.

So much for the principled approach.


  1. I stopped by Pharyngula for the first time in a couple of years to see the "Amazon did what?!??" post.

    Wow! Before the manufactured controversy, even the most insipid of his posts would garner hundreds of comments. Now, there are 10-20 regular commenters, there.

    Apparently, he has been relegated to the irrelevant backwaters of the skeptic movement. When will the conference organizers realize realize he is little more than an irrelevant bully?

    Cheers, Solius.

  2. Amazon cutting his revenue would be totally unfair because he is choosing to give them his ad space in return for revenue. If they simply cut out that program in Minnesota but not elsewhere it sucks big time. It's their choice, sure, but it leaves him in the lurch.

    His comments about funneling funds through his daughter pokes holes in the proposed legal structure as someone could very easily and cheaply get around the proposed legislation in a manner such as he proposes or by a couple of others I could think of.

    1. "pokes holes in the proposed legal structure" - again, very "progressive"...

    2. @dj357

      You're really funny. I can't even imagine that PZ's Amazon links make him any money whatsoever at this point since he has basically driven off most of his reader base that might actually click them and then buy something.

      And as for his suggestion to funnel Amazon links/money through his daugher I think he meant exactly what he said. Until he realized it might get himself and his daughter into trouble if he did so.