California "Amazon Sales Tax" Veto Referendum (2012)
|Not on Ballot|
| This measure did not or |
will not appear on a ballot
|Voting on Taxes|
|Not on ballot|
11-0019 was an attempt to use California's veto referendum process to nullify a legislative bill approved by the California State Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Specifically, the proposed referendum sought to overturn Section 1 of ABx1 28 (Stats. 2011 First Ex. Sess., Ch. 7 § 1).
Signature-collection efforts on 11-0019 came to a halt in early September 2011 when California legislators and Amazon reached an agreement under which:
- The State of California would delay collecting sales tax from online retailers until September 2012.
- Amazon would drop its effort to qualify #11-0019 for the ballot, and would instead devote its efforts to lobbying the U.S. Congress to develop a national policy on sales taxes for online retailers.
Amazon spent over $5 million on signature collection before the petition drive was halted.
Under the new law, California tax experts said that online retail giant Amazon would owe approximately $83 million in additional taxes each year.
Text of measure
Referendum to Overturn Law Requiring Internet Retailers to Collect Same Sales or Use Taxes as Other Retailers.
If signed by the required number of registered voters and filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to an existing state law. The law must be approved by voters at the next statewide election to remain in effect. The law expands the definition of retailers considered "engaged in business" in California to include certain Internet retailers selling to California consumers, so that out-of-state Internet retailers also collect existing sales or use taxes.
Internet retailing giant, Amazon.com, had made it clear that they planned to directly lead the fight to overturn ABx1 28.
Paul Misener, an Amazon vice-president, said, "This is a referendum on jobs and investment in California. As Governor Brown has made clear, it is important to directly involve the citizens of California in key issues and we believe that Californians will want to vote to protect small business and keep jobs in the state."
Commercial interests with physical locations in California already paid sales tax. These include giant retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. Spokesmen for those organizations said they would fight Amazon's effort to overturn ABx1 #28 because, in their view, the fact that Amazon did not have to charge sales tax on the products it sells online, while they do have to charge sales tax to customers when they sell the same item, gave Amazon (and other online retailers) an unfair advantage.
John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, said, "Why the **** should Amazon skate when we have a state where we are shutting down schools, shutting down hospitals, firing teachers, firing cops, firing firemen, screwing mental health people — because they don't want to have a god damned sales tax like everybody else...My daughter gave me a Kindle for my birthday present, and I will not use it because of these god damned people at Amazon. I go to my bookstore, buy a god damned book, and sit and read it. It is that simple. I can read it taking a crap, as opposed to looking at a Kindle or a computer taking a crap."
Path to the ballot
- See also: California signature requirements
The letter requesting a title and summary for the proposed referendum was signed by Charles T. Halnan, and was received by the Attorney General of California's office on July 8, 2011.
- The Christian Science Monitor, "Amazon vs. sales tax," September 3, 2011
- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Amazon's sales-tax showdown may dissolve soon," September 1, 2011
- New York Times, "Amazon Takes On California," July 13, 2011
- Biz Journals, "California has sales tax deal with Amazon," September 10, 2011
- The Sacramento Bee, "Amazon persuades California lawmakers to delay tax collection," September 8, 2011
- Los Angeles Times, "Amazon cuts deal on California sales taxes, drops ballot fight," September 8, 2011
- Press Democrat, "Don't look too closely at these California tax bills. It's not a pretty sight," September 19, 2011 (dead link)
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- KQED Capital Notes, "Amazon Tax Referendum Filed," July 11, 2011
- Big Government, "Amazon Tax headed to ballot," July 12, 2011
- The New York Times, "Amazon Spends Millions to Fight Internet Sales Tax," August 27, 2011
- Legislative history of ABx1 #28" (dead link)
- Geek Wire, "Geek Humor: Why this foul-mouthed California politician refuses to use his Kindle," December 6, 2011