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Amazon Reacts To Colorado Internet Sales Tax Measure By Firing Its Colorado Associates

Earns Amazon

First Posted: 05/08/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 04:45 PM ET

In response to recent legislation in Colorado (HB 10-1193), Amazon.com has sent a letter to its affiliates in Colorado informing them that the on-line sales giant will no longer be advertising through businesses in the state that that make money by referring buyers.

In order to close a $1.5 Billion budget gap, Colorado Democrats this session have passed a law that would make it possible to collect sales taxes on on-line purchases by creating an economic nexus between state residents and on-line retailers.

The bill, which was part of a package of tax measures aimed at increasing revenue, originally sought to create a nexus between the state and on-line retailers based on their ties to local affiliate websites, which link to products. The bill was ultimately altered due largely to fears that retailers like Amazon would simply cut ties to Colorado companies that make money by referring buyers.

The final bill, which was signed into law in February, instead required large online retailers to start collecting sales taxes or provide a summary of people's web purchases in the state, leaving affiliates out of the equation. This created an economic nexus without making local affiliates a scapegoat for paying local sales taxes.

Amazon has apparently elected to cut dies to its Colorado affiliates regardless. Colorado affiliate Nat Torkington wrote "So let me get this straight: I've done nothing, and Amazon just fired me?"

The letter has already drawn responses from Colorado Legislators. In a tweet, Senator Greg Brophy said he "will seek emergency legislation if necessary to fix" to problem.

In a press release, Governor Bill Ritter admonished Amazon:

"Amazon has taken a disappointing - and completely unjustified - step of ending its relationship with associates. While Amazon is blaming a new state law for its action, the fact is that Amazon is simply trying to avoid compliance with Colorado law and is unfairly punishing Colorado businesses in the process."

Republicans, who unanimously opposed the measure to collect sales tax from on-line purchases, said Amazon was justified in its decision to fire Colorado affiliates.

"I don't think you can blame Amazon," Minority Leader Rep. Mike May told the Denver Post.

Full text of Amazon's letter below, provided by Nat Torkington.

Dear Colorado-based Amazon Associate:

We are writing from the Amazon Associates Program to inform you that the Colorado government recently enacted a law to impose sales tax regulations on online retailers. The regulations are burdensome and no other state has similar rules. The new regulations do not require online retailers to collect sales tax. Instead, they are clearly intended to increase the compliance burden to a point where online retailers will be induced to "voluntarily" collect Colorado sales tax -- a course we won't take.

We and many others strongly opposed this legislation, known as HB 10-1193, but it was enacted anyway. Regrettably, as a result of the new law, we have decided to stop advertising through Associates based in Colorado. We plan to continue to sell to Colorado residents, however, and will advertise through other channels, including through Associates based in other states.

There is a right way for Colorado to pursue its revenue goals, but this new law is a wrong way. As we repeatedly communicated to Colorado legislators, including those who sponsored and supported the new law, we are not opposed to collecting sales tax within a constitutionally-permissible system applied even-handedly. The US Supreme Court has defined what would be constitutional, and if Colorado would repeal the current law or follow the constitutional approach to collection, we would welcome the opportunity to reinstate Colorado-based Associates.

You may express your views of Colorado's new law to members of the General Assembly and to Governor Ritter, who signed the bill.

Your Associates account has been closed as of March 8, 2010, and we will no longer pay advertising fees for customers you refer to Amazon.com after that date. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned prior to March 8, 2010, will be processed and paid in accordance with our regular payment schedule. Based on your account closure date of March 8, any final payments will be paid by May 31, 2010.

We have enjoyed working with you and other Colorado-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program, and wish you all the best in your future.

Best Regards,

The Amazon Associates Team

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Filed by Ethan Axelrod  |