Online retailers to charge Californians sales tax

September 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Shopping on the internet is not only convenient, but in some cases you can avoid paying sales tax.

But beware, the next time you buy online you may have to shell out a little extra cash than you're used to. That's because, in less than two weeks, a new online sales tax goes into effect.

"It's great," said Horn Photo owner Stan Grosz. " It will level the playing field a little more for us brick and mortar stores and help keep some of the dollars right here for our tax base in Fresno."

The North Fresno business owner has felt the effects of online retailing for years.

"It's unfair and need to get fixed," he said.

Grosz said the sales tax on high-end cameras and other hi-tech equipment can often add up to hundreds of dollars. He said a number of customers would go to his store, scan an item with their smartphones and then go home to find an online retailer to save up to 7-9%.

"People do come into a store like ours, get expert help to handle the equipment and then they'll go home and buy online to save the sales tax and it's very frustrating for someone like us that has employees and families here in Fresno," he said. "We'd like for people to buy their cameras from Horn Photo and not Amazon."

The new state law requires businesses like Amazon and B & H Photo to collect sales tax on internet purchases.

"I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon," said shopper Dennis Zeuschner. "They ship it to you in just a few days and there's free shipping, no sales tax."

California is gearing up to make the change. The State Board of Equalization is hiring 100 new auditors, lawyers and other specialists to enforce the new rules, which it expects will help California collect much needed revenue to support public services.

Shoppers we talked with said it will also make online and in-store prices more competitive.

"Even after coming here we could have gone out and compared prices online, but just having somebody physically here to come back and bring your product to, if there's problems or questions, is worth any price you might save," said shopper Stephen Farris.

Business owner Stan Grosz agreed.

"If you want to have an exchange with professionals and get service this is the place to come. The UPS driver can't teach you how to use a Nikon and Canon camera."

The change is huge for online retailer Amazon. For years the company fought any online tax, but recently struck a deal with California to start collecting. The company is opening facilities in the Golden State and is now hiring hundreds of people.

If an online retailer doesn't collect sales tax, you're supposed to pay it on your own when you file your income tax.


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