A federal judge has ruled that Amazon would not have to turn over detailed records of over 50 million purchases made by North Carolina residents on Amazon.com.
Earlier this year, we reported that the NC Department of Revenue was going after your personal information at Amazon in an effort to collect unpaid taxes on Internet purchases. The records request included name, address and the the items purchased for every NC resident’s transaction since 2003. Our feeling was that it was an unnecessary violation of our right to privacy.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Washington state said the request was in violation of the First Amendment:
“The Tar Heel State’s tax collectors have ‘no legitimate need’ for details about the literary, music, and film habits of so many Amazon customers, In spite of this, (North Carolina) refuses to give up the detailed information about Amazon’s customers’ purchases, while at the same time requesting the identities of the customers and, arguably, detailed records of their purchases, including the expressive content.”
In the end Amazon has been granted a summary judgment.
The web retailer has already provided an anonymous list of purchases made, along with the zip code they were made from. But it may not be over, the judge also said it would be possible for the State to make a narrower request for information:
“Issuing the declaratory relief as phrased does not prohibit (N.C. tax collectors) from issuing a new request for information as to only the names and addresses of Amazon’s customers and general product information, assuming that (the state) destroys any detailed information that it currently possesses.”
Since Amazon has no business facilities in the State they are exempt form charging sales tax, but the State’s tax forms request that residence file those purchases and taxes on their own.
Many local retailers view the tax exemption at the time-of-sale as an unfair advantage that hurts local competitiveness.