Amazon will charge sales tax in RI

News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Buying an item online at Amazon.com will soon cost a little more for Rhode Islanders.

The online retailer will begin collecting sales tax for items sold in Rhode Island starting Feb. 1, 2017, according to Jill Shatzen Kerr, Amazon’s public relations manager for public policy.

Kerr declined to answer further questions about the change, but Rhode Island is one of a number of states where Amazon has announced it will begin collecting sales tax this year. The U.S. Supreme Court dealt the company a blow over the issue just last month.

Right now, Amazon items shipped to destinations in roughly half the states are subject to sales tax. That includes Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, but not Vermont, Maine or New Hampshire (and for the next two weeks, Rhode Island).

Several states have been trying to collect the same sales tax from online retailers that brick-and-mortar stores are required to charge.

Amazon’s decision to collect Rhode Island sales tax is a switch from several years ago, when the retailer cut ties with local partners to protest a state law, enacted in 2009, that ordered the company to do so.

Paul Grimaldi, a spokesman for the R.I. Department of Revenue, declined to say how much the state expects it will receive annually from sales tax collected in Rhode Island, but said state officials welcome the company’s decision.

“We’re pleased that Amazon has stepped forward to voluntarily collect and send Rhode Island sales and use taxes,” he said in an email. “We believe that this is the trend across the U.S. and the right thing for the preservation of Main Street Rhode Island.”

Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, who has introduced legislation on the sales tax issue, said former Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s administration estimated a few years ago that the state was missing out on $25 million to $30 million in sales tax that online retailers were not collecting, but he cautioned that the estimate wasn’t limited to Amazon.

“We’re going to get something from Amazon, but it’s not going to be the huge windfall that you might expect,” he said.

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