Beginning March 1, Oklahoma joins a growing list of states that will collect sales taxes on purchases made online through Amazon. The online retail giant had previously relied upon a 1991 Supreme Court decision that bans states from forcing out-of-state online vendors to collect taxes if they don’t have a physical presence in the state.
This changes with the Oklahoma Retail Protection Act, which requires those same vendors to either voluntarily collect the sales tax or to send customers a notice at the end of the year to pay the tax. Amazon has chosen to voluntarily collect the sales tax in states like Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and now in Oklahoma.
This means that as soon as you type in your mailing zip code, the sales tax for your city and county will be added to your purchase. According to officials, the Amazon sales tax alone has the potential to generate tens of millions for the state and is supposed to remove the financial incentive to shop out-of-state.
Amazon is one of the websites college students use most often for online shopping, making the sales tax an especially hot topic on TU’s campus. When asked about her feelings on the sales tax, junior Aileen Polanski said “Before, when making a particularly large purchase, I’d make it on Amazon because I wouldn’t be paying tax and that meant the effect on my wallet would probably be less. I guess [the sales tax] seems weird because I don’t feel like I’m making the purchase in Oklahoma. The internet is virtual. It doesn’t have a location.”
Similarly, sophomore Hayley Harris responded “I think it could be avoided if our government could manage money better than a three-year-old with a checkbook. People keep saying ‘yeah, no one likes paying taxes, but it’s the right thing to do in this case.’ Really? This is okay, but a 1 percent increase in sales tax that’s required to go toward our state’s broken and broke education system isn’t ‘the right thing to do?’”
Sophomore Keerthana Krishnakumar, who is more moderate on the issue, said “I do a lot of shopping online, so it will probably hurt me quite a bit, but I think overall it will help even out the playing field for smaller local stores trying compete with the ease of online orders. It’s probably beneficial in the grand scheme of things, but it is unfortunate for individuals who rely on the accessibility and cheaper options online.”
On the other hand, sophomore John Nguyen, who is unconcerned about the tax, commented: “The main reason I go to Amazon is for the lower prices. So the addition of tax doesn’t bother me too much, because it’s still going to cost less in the end.”
When asked for her thoughts, sophomore Samra Arain answered “I don’t think it will have an effect on me. We already pay sales taxes when we shop in person, and adding it to Amazon purchases will not be a huge change. As more and more people shop online, states are losing income, and taxing Amazon could only help our state. I just hope some of the income from this tax will go towards education because it is no secret Oklahoma is struggling when it comes to education.”
Ultimately, the Amazon sales tax is an unavoidable development, regardless of student opinions. Oklahoma residents will discover whether or not it has a substantial effect, either on student wallets or state revenue, when the tax is implemented in March.