97°Mostly Cloudy

Friday Question of the Day – Will You Order Less from Amazon with new Sales Tax Starting?

by Prince Of Petworth September 29, 2016 at 10:22 pm 59 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

A few weeks ago WTOP reported:

“Amazon will be required to collect sales tax [5.75%] in Washington, D.C. beginning on October 1,” Amazon said in a statement emailed to WTOP. When asked for clarification as to why, Amazon responded it would have no further comment beyond the one-line statement.”

There was speculation that this could mean a brick and mortar Amazon could be coming but for today I’m just curious if you think this will effect your shopping habits. So do you think still order from them as usual?

  • saf

    I don’t order much from Amazon to begin with, so this won’t change much.

  • Anonoman

    I use amzn all the time. Tax DC deliveries removes the tax savings incentive to deliver to my front porch — hello package thieves — rather than my office in Old Town, which is already taxed. Works for me!

  • BQ

    How can they charge the tax where they DO not have a store in DC, thus not filing the DC taxes!?!

    • FridayGirl

      All they need is a “physical presence.” That could include a warehouse, lockers, etc.

      • Marty

        Sites are free to charge state/local taxes even without a physical presence. However, of course, it’s not really in their business interests to do so. (If they have a physical presence, then they must charge.)

        • textdoc

          Yeah. That’s why it puzzles me that they’ve initiated this.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Technically, everyone in DC should have been declaring the purchases on their taxes already and paying taxes on it. Just because an online retailer doesn’t charge tax, doesn’t mean you don’t owe it. Obviously, no one does this in reality, which is why jurisdictions are crackung down on the major players like Amazon.

      • Tsar of Truxton


      • Hill Denizen

        Exactly, they don’t need to have a physical presence to charge tax, but if they have a physical presence then they HAVE to charge it. We should all be paying tax, though, just as you say, no one does in practice. I thought this was more them playing nice as we get closer to passing internet taxation legislation. Might as well do it now and show that you’re playing fair than get screwed in the process.

  • LM

    Nah…I use an amazon locker near work (packages I deliver to my apt always magically disappear) in VA so I already pay taxes. Maybe now there will be a Locker closer to my apt though!

  • DF

    Will order wherever is cheapest. Prime shipping is certainly a plus though.

  • Unpopular opinion

    Legally, DC residents were still required to pay sales (use) tax on Amazon purchases. Not that most people know this or did this. (Unlike Virginia, who included the use tax as part of the income tax return, DC had a separate form for it.) This change just puts the burden on the retailer rather than individuals to ensure the proper taxes are collected.

    So to answer the question: no change for me.

    • dcd

      When you say no change for you, do you mean that you won’t change your habits, or that you won’t be paying more for your purchases, because you are the unicorn who actually paid the DC taxes?

      • Unpopular opinion

        I am the unicorn, I guess.

  • Marty

    We order pretty regularly from Amazon (often 2-3x per week). I suppose that we may price shop a little more for larger purchases, or look around for other non-tax retailers. But I don’t really mind paying taxes anyway, as long as I have some faith that DC will put the $$ to good use.

  • No, the tax amount had virtually nothing to do with why I would order from Amazon.

    • AMDCer

      Exactly – I order for the convenience of delivery, not based on price.

  • FridayGirl

    I don’t order from Amazon often to begin with (and even less so since they raised the minimum for free shipping on most items). So this won’t change anything.

  • Idontgetit

    I’ll grumble about it but will continue to order at the same pace. It’s just too easy!

  • Anon

    TBH, the no-tax thing always seemed sketch to me. If anything, this makes Amazon more like a legitimate business, and it mitigates the extent that buying online hurts local communities. I’ll probably order more from them now.

  • anon

    Even though I’m pretty annoyed, the lack of tax was never the incentive to buy from Amazon in the first place. For me it’s the convenience factor of prime shipping (and more and more things are one day or same day shipping now. The last thing I want to do is spend time going to a store to buy things I could get shipped within a day or two, often for cheaper. I’d be paying sales tax in a store anyway so it really won’t matter.
    The one thing that will change for me is large purchases. I have bought things like furniture, a guest mattress, an air conditioning unit, etc on amazon. I will probably turn to other online retailers like Wayfair or Overstock for these types of things now unless I need it immediately.

    • LittleBluePenguin


  • NH Ave Hiker

    Well that’s really annoying. One of the main reasons I would order from Amazon, besides the prime shipping. ugh.

  • skj84

    I don’t really order from Amazon that much so not really. I guess I should use that $20 credit I have on my account today.

  • dcd

    I’m not sure I was aware that taxes weren’t charged in DC on Amazon orders – and if I was aware at one point, I’d forgotten about it. With Amazon Prime and free shipping, it’s just so easy, especially not that we’re in the burbs and the fears of package thieves are dramatically lessened.
    Last weekend, I went to the new Lowes to buy a leaf blower. I found the model I wanted on display, but no one could find it in a box, despite the fact that the inventory said the store has sixteen of them. (Sixteen!) After 30 minutes, armed with promises to call me later that day when the found them (never got a call), I left, frustrated and leaf blower-less. I got home, went online, and within 2 minutes had ordered the same leaf blower, with free shipping, and saved $2. It came yesterday. That’s why I use Amazon.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Exactly this.

  • jim_ed

    No, because I ship most expensive purchases to my in-laws house in Fairfax since packages don’t walk off of doorsteps there.

  • Anonymous

    Will send stuff to my MIL’s house in Bethesda. We are there every weekend anyway.
    The statement is so cryptic and just bad PR. Explain why you need to raise the price, you dolts.

    • Francesca

      Amazon already charges tax in MD.

      • textdoc

        That’s not what Anonymous was posting about.
        I agree with Anonymous — it’s bad PR for Amazon to say that it’s going to start charging sales tax for D.C. deliveries without providing some sort of explanation (desire to comply with law, brick-and-mortar facility coming soon, etc., etc.).

        • Anonymous

          “Will send stuff to my MIL’s house in Bethesda.”
          I read Anonymous’ first two sentences to mean that they will send stuff to Bethesda instead to avoid paying sales tax, which they won’t if Amazon already charges it in MD.

          • textdoc

            Oops, my bad. Somehow I misread as though they were already sending stuff to the MIL’s house in Bethesda to avoid package theft in D.C.

      • Anonymous

        Ah, I had no clue. And it’s 6% in MD. So I will keep ordering in DC and keep the taxes here!

  • gotryit

    I actually like the things that my DC taxes go toward, so I don’t plan to change habits at all.

    • Emmaleigh504

      +1 Taxes pay for things we all use.

    • ke

      Yeah, I’m actually ok with paying taxes for the same reason. (Ahem, Mr. Trump.)

    • eva

      Yup. And I was always filing and paying tax on online purchases anyway (our taxes are super complex and it’s just part of the questionnaire from our accountant so it would be actively dishonest to list it as $0).

  • EcceNerdo

    I pre-ordered a DVD (this was years ago, don’t laugh) the day before it was supposed to be released. I received an e-mail from Amazon at 2 am with a link to stream the movie while I waited for the delivery. I had the DVD in my hands at 1 pm, delivered to my office, the same day. Why would I ever buy retail again? I only by fresh food and clothes retail anymore.

  • ET

    It may be only a matter of time before all online retailers charge for online purchases. South Dakota was sued by several online retailers that may end up at the Supreme Court at some point. I think the case is challenging a previous SC decision (Quill Corp. v. North Dakota) that ruled that online retailers were only required to charge sales tax when they had a presence in the state. Saying that, many states are coordinating their efforts to ensure that online sales are taxed by individually passing laws because Congress isn’t doing anything.

    I don’t buy much online but I don’t make my online purchases based on not paying sales tax.

  • Nathan

    No, will still order as usual. I’ve been paying tax occasionally anyway when ordering more expensive things to be delivered to my office in MD rather than have them sit outside my house in DC and get stolen.

  • eb

    This is probably a minority opinion but I might actually order more from Amazon bc sometimes I feel bad ordering from big box giant. Sales taxes go directly into my community and my dad taught me taxes are the price I pay for “living in a civilized society.”

  • Truxton Thomas

    Use Amazon a lot, and that’s not going to change. This is something we probably should have been doing already, so I’m not going to sweat it.

  • I am ordering less from Amazon because their shipping has become highly unpredictable, even with Prime (especially with Prime). I’ve ordered next day delivery items and ended up having to wait up to a week – multiple times – over the past 6 months or so. And that’s assuming it doesn’t just get lost in the mail – I think maybe 3 or 4 packages over the same time frame have just disappeared off the shipping tracking. And their customer services is pretty unapologetic when this happens. I let my prime membership expire – it’s not worth it anymore.

    • Dave

      That’s not great. As an FYI, if something on prime takes longer to ship than it should, Amazon will refund you for a month of prime. I usually end of taking advantage of that a couple of times a year, because the fast delivery is what I pay for.

    • Marty

      Sorry to hear of your experience. I have had one item from Amazon that was seriously late, but all others have been on time or sooner. (I actually complained to them that having packages arrive sooner than predicted is a problem since we try to order when we know we’ll be home for a delivery – package theft and all.)
      As Dave says below, if you complain about a late package you will almost always get a free month of prime, or free 1 day shipping on a future package. I write a brief note at 8:31pm asking about the status of a package that was to have been delivered that day. The response always says “please wait 2 days more just in case it shows up, blah, blah, blah,” but it ends with “to compensate you for this immense inconvenience, you can have a month a prime for free.”

  • Ashy Oldlady

    It probably won’t change a thing for me. I order mostly LPs from them because I like the AutoRip feature, and the assorted sundries I order from them would probably still be cheaper with tax than buying them locally. The convenience of Prime free 2-day shipping is what really keeps me coming back.

  • Rich

    I mostly stopped ordering from them when I read about how they treat people in their distribution centers. I only do downloads unless I absolutely can’t find something elsewhere. If the sales tax thing cuts dowen on people making lazy purchases like paper towels that take up space in ourcondo mail area.

  • KG

    AFFECT. AFFECT your buying habits.

  • CHGal

    I guess I’ve never noticed that they didn’t charge, so it won’t bother me. I am trying to cut back on how much I order from them though, the shipping packaging is just so wasteful.

    • AMDCer

      There is a certain brand of skin care products I used to order online, but stopped because their packaging is just ridiculous. You do not need a 12″x12″ box to ship a 3oz tube of lotion!

  • textdoc

    I don’t order all that frequently from Amazon, so this won’t really change my buying habits.
    I’m amazed at the number of people who say they order everything (or practically everything) online — especially sundries like paper towels, toothpaste, etc. I guess they must live in places where package theft isn’t an issue.
    The things I buy online are usually big-ticket electronic items and things I can’t easily find locally or don’t want to hunt for (e.g., books).
    I’m sometimes an indecisive buyer and like the option of ordering online from a place where I can do easy in-store returns (ideally, with long return periods like 90 days). Since easy in-store returns aren’t an option with Amazon, I order less from them than I would otherwise.

    • Anonamom

      I order a lot from Amazon, and definitely ordered at least once or twice a week when I lived in the city. I did the Amazon Pantry box a few times then. For me, it was just way more convenient. The part of the city I lived in, things were rarely stolen (the one time something was stolen, I’m convinced it was the delivery person themselves since the item was return sans packaging when an investigation started). I really don’t return things, and I find it just as easy to not return things on Amazon as stores.
      It’s definitely a ‘to each their own thing.’ My SO is a visual shopper and hates online shopping. I’m a convenience shopper and love it.

      • textdoc

        What’s this Amazon Pantry box? I am intrigued.
        I’m not actually sure how prevalent package theft is on my immediate block, but I hear about package theft in adjacent neighborhoods so much on PoPville that I don’t want to push my luck too much. (It wasn’t an auspicious start when the very first package delivered to my house after I bought it — a Verizon DSL modem — was signed for by a “Jose” and never seen again.)

    • Near Northeast

      My theory is that buying low-cost sundries online actually helps with the package theft issue. The incentive for package theft is the hope of a big-ticket electronic item or other pay-off. If 95% of packages contain a six-pack of toilet paper or the equivalent, the risk/reward ratio for package theft drops way down.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I’ve wondered about that before as well. To my knowledge I have only had one attempted package theft. The package contained a couple packs of 3M Nexcare bandages (which are really excellent – they actually stay on! they’re now more widely available, but were hard to find back then) and a 3-pack of Tide pens.

        • HaileUnlikely

          “attempted” package theft was poor phrasing. I do believe the package was stolen, though it is possible that it was just never delivered or delivered to the wrong house.

      • textdoc

        This is an interesting point — I hadn’t thought about it from that angle.
        The thing is… there seems to be practically no risk (from the thief’s point of view) in package stealing. I don’t get the impression that they’re caught all that often, or punished significantly when they are. So maybe it’s more of an issue as to whether it’s worth the thief’s time to steal a package if it turns out to be just toothpaste.

  • JoDa

    Was going to say no, but, actually, this may increase the business I do with Target. I have the card, so the 5% discount from Target basically covers the sales tax where prices are close (they often are). Up until now, the 2-day shipping often made the difference (Target’s shipping can be awfully slow). Will have to see how often that’s relevant re: Prime membership.

  • Guy Jones

    I would have no problem paying sales tax on Amazon purchases in D.C. if there was actually a sound legal rationale for the company to collect such a tax; e.g., if it had a warehouse or physical store in the District. It doesn’t, currently — irrespective of what the company’s future ambitions may hold on that score — so, this doesn’t sit well with me.

    I already pay a small fortune in real estate and income taxes to the District — I don’t feel like paying an extra 5.75% on my web purchases, to flow into the coffers of the bloated D.C. government. I’ll shop elsewhere, where possible. I already purchased some Samsung micro SDXC memory cards at B&H Photo, instead of Amazon, this week.


Subscribe to our mailing list