Haslam Campaign, Others Failed to Pay Sales Tax on Amazon Purchases

Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2010 campaign quietly paid $434 in state sales taxes on more than $4,000 in purchases made from Amazon.com two weeks ago after The Tennessean inquired about failure to pay while researching a story that appeared Sunday.
The payment also came after Haslam’s July testimony before Congress in support of a law requiring Internet companies to collect state taxes… and after Haslam cut a deal with Amazon in 2011 on sales tax collections.
The newspaper found several state political campaigns that did not pay sales tax on Amazon purchases while reporting just one that did (Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden).
After fielding questions from The Tennessean about the purchases two weeks ago, the campaign promptly paid the taxes, spokesman Dave Smith said.
“Since this issue came to our attention, the taxes have been paid,” Smith said in an email. “It was inadvertently overlooked.”
Smith declined to elaborate further.
During its most recent fiscal year that ended in June, the Department of Revenue collected about $4.7 million in revenue from “consumer use tax” — which is levied on all online, catalog and purchases of untaxed items from outside the state, said department spokesman Billy Trout.
Voluntary filings — 8,766 to be exact — accounted for just more than $3 million of that revenue. Those filings last year jumped nearly fivefold from the 1,795 returns received in the previous fiscal year.
“Quite honestly, it’s a continual issue for us,” Trout said. “We know there’s a lot of people out there who don’t understand it and don’t realize it.”
Trout said he suspected the Amazon email notices contributed to the increase. The company began sending notices in April to Tennessee residents for purchases made in 2011.

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