Tag Archives: confidentiality

While Governor Comments on Amazon, Revenue Commissioners Won’t

While Gov. Bill Haslam says there are “ongoing negotiations” with Amazon over the internet giant’s collection of Tennessee sales taxes, Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts will not confirm the governor’s statements..
And former Revenue Commissioner Charles Trost, who reportedly handled the Amazon dealing back during former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, won’t say anything either.
So reports Mike Morrow as part of a story on Haslam’s remarks on Amazon Friday, which boiled down to the governor saying he hasn’t changed his position – he’ll honor the Bredesen deal but would like for Amazon to start collecting taxes at some undefined point in the future.
Haslam was asked Friday if, when an arrangement with Amazon is reached, the public would be informed what it is.
“Sure,” Haslam said. “You bet.

But it’s sure bet that officials don’t like to talk about the deal now.
Trost, a Nashville attorney who replaced Reagan Farr as commissioner of Revenue last Sept. 10, would not comment on details of the Bredesen deal.
“I really am not in a position where I can,” Trost said. “The taxpayer confidentiality rules have put me in a position where I just don’t even want to start down the road talking about it.”
Trost said he is not even in a position to confirm that the deal was struck while he was commissioner.
“What’s in the public record out there, if you looked at the timing on it, when I was in office, you can draw your own conclusions,” Trost said.
….Roberts had a similar response.
“I can tell you that the state statutes prohibit me from discussing any taxpayer, whether it be you or Billy Bob’s Bait Shop or an unnamed major Internet retailer,” Roberts said. “Just as a matter of policy we simply can’t comment on individual taxpayers.”
Roberts said he cannot confirm that the administration is talking to Amazon.
“Our policy here requires that we maintain confidentiality. The reason is we have to give any taxpayer the confidence that what they file with us and their dealings with us will not wind up in the public domain. Until the legislature changes that — and I also believe it’s the right policy — I just simply can’t confirm or deny,” Roberts said.
Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, speaking to reporters Friday, picked up on the issue of discussing the talks.
“I can’t quite tell what the governor’s position on this is, but we are making a mistake by talking about our discussions with Amazon without having some kind of firm agreement with them,” Berke said