Monday, July 2, 2012

Kindle News and Tips: Amazon's Kindle battery advisories. Amazon and state sales tax - why the battles?


I just bought a Kindle book and saw, for the first time, a yellow box under the Amazon "Thanks" page, with the advisory:

  "For delivery to your Kindle, please verify that your device is sufficiently charged and your wireless connection is enabled."

  I guess there were more than a few times that people's Kindle book deliveries didn't quite work due to either of these reasons.

  In battery-use advisories, Amazon has recommended you never let your battery go below 25% and I've thought that was because things can go wrong when there's not sufficient battery power left, due to  (1) keyword indexing going on in the background when you download new books or move books from your computer to the Kindle or (2) maybe a book file half-way downloaded will be aborted when there is less power than needed for whatever you want the Kindle to do next.  That leaves the e-reader in a half-completed state and then you'll see glitches.

  Amazon has also said that Kindles use less battery power when you just let them go to sleep (sleep screen showing) OR if you put one to sleep by sliding or pressing the power button quickly, once.  I've had mine last 30+ days that way while I was gone, with almost no drain -- showing the sleep screen.

For what Amazon has said about best battery maintenance practices, see the Amazon battery advisories I collected.

AMAZON AND STATE TAXES - Why hasn't Amazon paid states taxes all along?
  Amazon has had a no-state-tax-collecting policy on purchases in all states except five, for some time, based, they've said, on a Supreme Court ruling in 1992 (Quill Corp v. North Dakota) which, in effect,  replied "No" to requirements by states that mail-order companies which operate in other states collect, for the state, its taxes for purchased products -- unless there is a strong physical sales presence (normally 'staff' or employees) which would constitute substantial nexus in the state and/or the mail-order companies have subsidiaries in the state that are not run independently and which don't have independent management structures.

  In California, Amazon's Lab 126 was structured, I read, with independent management (probably for that reason).

 Other than that -- from my reading, Amazon's thinking seems to have been something like the following.
State tax collection is required from businesses with a strong physical local presence based on the need for police and fire protection, water, roads, transport.

  Some states have decided that websites that are Amazon affiliates (getting small commissions on orders resulting from links to Amazon) are sales-staff (normally a phrase used for actual 'staff'), each using "facilities" in the state, moreover, and therefore Amazon should pay taxes as brick-and-mortar stores must.
  This is why Amazon has terminated affiliateships in several states that legislated 'Amazon' laws in order to collect the taxes needed by the states when there was no actual sales staff in those states.

  Websites with referral links to Amazon are actually more on a par with radio and tv stations that advertise products, giving viewers/listeners website information and telephone numbers and telling listeners where they can order such and such $$, although website info-referral-links are more passive in most cases, most being info links.

  We know that TV and radio broadcasting companies are not considered sales staff, though. "Independence" of staff is an important concept in the rulings.  Amazon has no input into what affiliates say about them, not even on complaints by those websites, which you will often see.

  Websites that are affiliates are independent and usually also include linked-referrals to places like Linkshare, Commission Junction, Barnes & Noble, CD Universe, Walmart etc.,

  While street store retailers understandably don't want mail-order companies with even no real presence in a state to have tax-collection advantages, the mail-order or Internet companies actually also have their own disavantages in that they have the additional sales expense of individual shipment costs and inability to do instant-gratification delivery as you'd get in a store.

  California and other states are aware of the Supreme Court's view that in the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution,  Congress and the courts have the power to strike down laws that "burden interstate commerce" but understandably the states don't agree with them.

  Some experts have considered the new state bills unconstitutional, while other experts argue that the Supreme Court ruling of 1992 is "outdated"...

    Under US law, Supreme Court rulings are, however, normally expected to be observed.  You can rightly call them 'outdated' but ...  Amazon will always get bad PR from those who haven't looked into this, which isn't good for any business, so they've been making 'Agreements' with several states.  I also think they're expanding into several states anyway.

  Amazon has been on record as encouraging Congress to pass a standardized national law.    There is good support for this.  But Congress is slow.  And that's where things stand - the national law is being promoted as a legal way to get states their due despite the 1992 Supreme Court ruling, but will it ever be done?

In the meantime, states do 'require' that residents pay taxes on products bought from online, out-of-state companies (via income tax filings) but this doesn't tend to happen.

Those who are interested in the legal aspects of this might find helpful the article on the wording in the rulings pointed to and described by The Tax Foundation.

Texans started having state taxes added (approximately 8%) to Amazon purchases July 1 per an agreement reached between Texas and Amazon.  The upside will be that Amazon will create thousands of new jobs in Texas.  Agreements to do this are made in return for extending sales tax exemptions for a period of time.
 In the deal with Texas, Amazon agreed:
'over the next four years to create at least 2,500 jobs and make at least $200 million in capital investments in the state, and will begin to collect and remit Texas sales tax on July 1, 2012.” '
New Jersey residents won't have to start paying 7% state tax on purchases until July 1, 2013.   What they'll get from their state's agreement with Amazon are "two large distribution centers, each a million square feet, resulting in 1,500 full-time jobs and thousands of part-time seasonal jobs when they're both operating."

In California, Amazon has agreed, to create a lot of jobs and facilities here, in return for an extension of sales-tax collecting.
  Amazon had been able to get enough signatures for a state sales tax referendum that would repeal the state sales tax legislation that had been quickly passed last year reequiring Amazon to collect sales tax eff. July 1, 2011.  State officials and representatives worried that the referendum would result in Amazon not having to pay state taxes after all if the voters had a say, and then the State retaliated with an attempt at an 'Urgency' bill to nullify the law they'd just made, which would then invalidate Amazon's successful referendum petition and create a new law that would be immune to a referendum.

 However, the State decided on a settlement with Amazon and will not require Amazon's collection of sales tax for California until September 2012 or January 2013.  In the meantime, Amazon will pour money into the state in jobs and facilities.  I think the trend is that Amazon has decided to put warehouses in many more states, so eventually they'd need to pay taxes anyway by law.

Massachusetts will be asking Amazon to start collecting taxes, and Illinois got a similar compromise in April. 
  The Boston Globe reporter, Patrick Doyle, describes Amazon as throwing "a tantrum" over collecting sales tax but then, he adds, "Although, to be fair, this is partly the fault of a 20-year old Supreme Court decision and Congress' general internet illiteracy."

Let me know if any of this is new to you if you've been interested in the situation.

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  1. "Actually, websites with referral links to Amazon are actually more on a par with radio and tv stations that advertise products, giving viewers/listeners website information and telephone numbers and telling listeners where they can order such and such $$, although website info-referral-links are more passive in most cases, most being info links."

    I have to say, that I agree with the above. IMO, states are using this as a way to raise revenue in a cash-crunch along with a rash of other increased taxes, fees, etc.

    1. Jazz, it's amazed me when reading articles on the online store taxes, how little writers do research on the reasons, rationales, or background on why online stores haven't -had- to collect taxes for the various lower states. But states are in a bad way and if, in need, they say the online stores are just greedy vultures going against 'law,' many news sites look no further.


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