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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | February 24, 2012 at 8:45 am | 1,964 views | 51 Comments

Fetus Personhood Bill Defeated — A coalition of Democrats and Republicans helped defeat a bill that would have granted legal “personhood” status to unborn children at the moment of conception. The Virginia House of Delegates had approved the bill, but the state Senate voted yesterday to delay consideration of the bill until next year in order to allow further study. Pro-choice advocates argued the bill would have had unintended consequences, like outlawing some forms of contraception and granting expectant mothers use of HOV lanes. [Huffington Post]

Amazon to Pay Sales Tax in Virginia — Get ready to start paying a 5 percent sales tax on your Amazon.com purchases. The online retailer agreed yesterday to start collecting sales taxes in Virginia. Traditional brick and mortar retailers were pushing state legislators to force Amazon to pay sales taxes, saying that the company’s sales tax “loophole” gave them an unfair competitive advantage. [WAMU]

Klingon Casting Call — Arlington’s WSC Avant Bard is seeking some local Klingons for its “Shakespeare in Klingon” show on March 4. The theater company is holding a Klingon casting call in Dupont Circle from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. [Washington Post]

Improv Class This Weekend — An “Introduction to Improv” class is being held on Saturday at Arlington’s Theater on the Run (3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive). The class is being hosted by The Arlington Players and taught by Dunbar Dicks of the legendary Chicago improv troupe Second City. [The Arlington Players]

Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief

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  • CrystalMikey

    Say it ain’t so Amazon? Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

    • Zoning Victim

      As much as I hate taxes, this is good for local business and the state.

      • jackson

        Good for the state. But unless local businesses start selling things at 40% discounts and delivery to your house for free, doubt they’ll see a rush of former Amazon buyers.

      • Josh S

        Believe it or not, I agree with you.

        I am definitely disappointed personally to have to start paying taxes on Amazon, but it is a boost for local businesses. I wonder if, a year from now, anyone will be able to quantify it.

      • HayCaramba

        answered my own question, earliest tax starts is Sept 1, 2013, SO KEEP MILKING THAT PRIME MEMBERSHIP!!!

    • JamesE
    • HayCaramba

      So when do I start paying tax so I can plan all big purchases!

  • Quoth the Raven

    Note to self: avoid Dupont from 1 to 3 on Saturday.

    • JamesE

      Might run into a cloaked bird of prey.

  • Frivolous

    Yeah that’s pretty crappy news for consumers. Brick and mortar was soooo 1999

  • Homeowner

    Gotta admit that no sales tax and free shipping has sent a lot of my business Amazon’s way. While it sucks for me personally, this really was a loop hole that was cheating the state and taxpayers.

    • GreaterClarendon

      Yep, most all my shopping for a family was through Amazon – I guess I took advantage of it long enough – luckily the house remodel is done, and I won’t need any more TVs or stereos for awhile. I’ll likely still shop Amazon, mainly due to the selection and lack of time to actually shop with the traffic in this area. I did not go to a retailer, and then go online for a better price – mainly just stuck with online shopping.

    • Burger

      There was no sales tax but a use tax. The onus was on you to declare things you bought over the internet. So you were cheating yourself. Amazon IS still under no duty to charge a 5% sales tax.

  • Daniel

    Well, you kind of guessed that the good times were going to come to end for tax free shopping on the internet… The old claims that it was too much work/effort are pretty hollow at this point.

    • jslanger

      Technically it was NEVER tax free. You were supposed to pay the taxes yourself (not saying I ever did either, but…)

      • IRS

        Your audit begins tomorrow

    • Zoning Victim

      The old claims were not inaccurate. Not only has technology changed radically since Amazon first started selling (making these kinds of changes easier), but they now make tons of money and can afford to make the necessary changes to their software for charging sales tax in the different states. I’d be willing to bet it’s at least a $100,000 project to set your system up to comply with state sales taxes. That’s no big deal for Amazon now (remember, when this first came up Amazon wasn’t even profitable), but it’s a huge deal for smaller e-commerce sites and was for Amazon back in the day, too.

      • Burger

        Not sure where you stand but the small e-commerce companies do not have 100K to throw at this issues. It isn’t just the 50 states and DC but there are something to the effect of 7500 different taxing authorities in the US. It might be easy for Amazon to accomodate everyone but the small guys can’t. Which was the entire premise of the Supreme Court decision back in the early 90′s stating the Merchant Magazines didn’t have to pay sales tax except for in the state where they have a physical presence. Nothing has changed except states trying desparately to find other sources of revenue.

        • Zoning Victim

          Yeah, I agree that it would crush the small niche e-commerce sites if they had to try to create custom software but I don’t think that creating custom software company by company is what would happen. Amazon is already handling the differences for every one of those localities under it’s agreement with Target to handle all of their online affairs. I’m sure if other sites had to start complying, Amazon (and other online service providers) would just establish a new service for figuring out what the taxes are for a given transaction and address.

          States are losing billions of dollars (7.7 billion in 2008 according to the “New Rules Project”) in a time when most of them are suffering big budget shortfalls, and that problem is only going to get worse as the online markets expand. The National Governors Association established the Streamlined Sales Tax Project to come up with uniform sales tax rules and has the majority of states on board already; so all of that complexity from 1992 when that ruling was made is going away. They need to move slow to allow the niche e-commerce sites time to react without breaking the bank, but I don’t see the problem as insurmountable, anymore.

  • Bender

    Just can’t resist that media bias, huh? I’ve noticed more and more of it creeping in lately.

    But here is something novel – how about just SIMPLE STRAIGHT REPORTING, without the spin???

    The personhood bill was not “defeated,” despite your headline, as your own story indicates – rather, consideration was delayed. Holding a bill over for later consideration is not by any honest definition “defeated.”

    • xian

      Really, Bender?
      Result is the same. The fact is it did not pass. It will not become law this legislative session. Reconsideration is just one of many tools used to “defeat” bills – as in prevent bills from becoming law. I would say that the bill was “defeated” if the goal of the bill was to become a statute.

    • drax

      Seriously, Bender, give it a rest. To say that calling this bill “defeated” is liberal bias is ridiculous. That’s YOUR bias at work.

      Any bill that cannot pass until next year – like all bills not passed – is essentially defeated. Explaining the parliamentary technicalities is not necessary to say that.

    • CourthouseChris

      Way to fly off the handle over a nit…

    • SteamboatWillie

      Defeated is what it will be if its proponents have the courage to put the matter to a ballot vote before the entire Commonwealth.

    • Zoning Victim

      Yeah, and don’t forget about the Artisphere!

      Politics 101: that’s exactly how you defeat your own bill on something your base really likes but nobody else does. You tell the base how much you’re behind them, they vote for you, you propose a bill that you know sucks and will result in unintended consequences that even people from your own party won’t support, you put it into committee when everybody points out it sucks and it’s never seen again because the committee never returns it to the floor for a vote. You do all this early in the election cycle. It’s a lot easier to get reelected that way because the base thinks you tried and will try again, so you really get them; you’re in their corner. That way when you say you are “Pro- or Anti- Whatever” during your re-election bid, they’ll believe you. The rest of the people forget you ever tried by the next election cycle or feel it doesn’t matter because it’ll never happen anyway and they feel okay voting for you if they like the rest of your policies.

  • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

    wasn’t the consumer supposed to pay sales tax on untaxed out of state purchases?

    • CourthouseChris

      Yes, I recall this question distinctly on the VA tax return filings in past years.

  • Jack

    For some reason, I chuckled at the thought of expecting mothers driving in the HOV lanes due to the personhood amendment.

    • drax

      I was looking forward to seeing all the pregnant women claim an extra dependent on their taxes.

      • charlie

        my wife and I were planning to be HOV-3 real soon now…

        • OldTimer

          Cop would have to perform a transvag ultrasound to confirm HOV-3. Oh the legal brohaha. 5pm and it’s brew haha.

  • yequalsy

    Personhood amendment = The Full Employment for Lawyers Amendment

  • John Fontain

    “Pro-choice advocates argued the bill would have had unintended consequences, like outlawing some forms of contraception and granting expectant mothers use of HOV lanes.”

    I can’t believe the dummy who came up with the personhood bill wasn’t bright enough to realize the many, many unintended consequences of the bill. Here is what would have resulted (from a post back in November):

    http://www.arlnow.com/2011/11/22/morning-notes-358/#comment-101651

    “Given that babies will be almost one year old at birth, will this bill also mean that:

    -20 year olds will be able to drink alcohol?

    -14 year olds will be able to get a driver’s permit?

    -15 year olds will be able to get a driver’s license?

    -13 year olds will be able to get married?

    -adults can have intercourse with consenting 14 year olds without breaking the law

    I just want to make sure I understand what Delegate Bob Marshall is pushing for. Who knew that such a ‘conservative’ republican would want it to be legal to have sex with 14 year olds!!”

    • CW

      Last part doesn’t surprise me one bit…

    • Zoning Victim

      I’m positive he knew about the unintended consequences; see my earlier post. It’s a political Jedi mind trick that actually seems to work on a whole lot of people.

      • John Fontain

        I’ve think you are giving Marshall way too much credit.

  • Henry Spencer

    I knew it was a matter of time before Amazon started charging tax. If the larger online sellers do this voluntarily, hopefully it will hold off states’ push to pass laws requiring it. Usually, Amazon would still come out cheaper than a B&M store even with the 5% bump.

    • Henry Spencer

      That’s what I get for just reading the Arl Now blurb without looking at the source; sounds like they worked this out because Amazon plans to build two large distribution centers in VA.

      • Zoning Victim

        Yeah, I heard they were planning on coming here, and if you have a footprint in the state, you have to pay the sales tax. I hope if states do pass a laws requiring online retailers to collect sales tax they base the rollout of compliance with the law on the size of the company so that the smaller companies have plenty of time over which to absorb the cost of the changes.

        • Burger

          Right now, it is still unconstitutional to charge sales tax for items bought over the internet from companies with no physical presence in the state. The last case on this issue was in the early 90′s. Maybe states should be allowed – I sort of doubt the court will look at it that way. So states have no right to just charge an internet sales tax.

          • Zoning Victim

            To be more specific, it’s unconstitutional for the *states* to pass a law requiring outside retailers to pay their sales tax because it would burden interstate commerce. I’m not sure if it was part of the ruling or not, but states have no jurisdiction over interstate commerce, anyway.

            However, the legal finding did specifically state that it would be inside the bounds of the Constitution for Congress to pass legislation demanding they pay the sales taxes to the state/locality to which they’re shipping the product.

  • Lardery

    Maybe a fetus can play one of the Klingons. I would like to see that. They’re all red and slimy and angry-looking.

  • Bonissa Meldi

    Time to find an out-of-state e-retailer….

  • rob

    Does Amazon collect sales tax in DC? If not, time to start shipping items to work.

    • Banksy

      I was wondering about that strategy. I live in Arlington and work in D.C. If I get items purchased on Amazon shipped to work, do I still have to pay VA sales tax? What about gifts that I order on Amazon, but ship directly to the recipient in another (non-Amazon) state?

      • Dan

        Not surprisingly, quite a few companies have a D.C. office.
        When I lived in D.C. but worked in VA I used to have things shipped to my office to avoid the D.C. sales tax….

  • Mary-Austin

    anyone know only applies to amazon or are others included in the new law?

    • Zoning Victim

      It’s not a new law, yet; the General Assembly is considering the so-called “Tax Fairness Bill,” now. This is just an agreement between Amazon and Virginia that Amazon will start collecting the Virginia sales tax for any sales to someone with an address in Virginia. I’m not sure if that would just be the shipping address, or if the shipping and billing address are the same or what; the article isn’t specific other than to say sales “to residents of Virginia.”

      If the bill does become law, it will still only apply to online retailers who have what the courts call a “nexus” (office, store, warehouse, etc.) here in Virginia. I don’t know which online retailers have a nexus here, but it’s reasonable to assume that some do and will be affected.

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