Judge Rules in Favor of Amazon in NC’s Quest For Your Purchase History

October, 26, 2010, by David

Judge Rules in Favor of Amazon in NC’s Quest For Your Purchase History
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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.

 

 

 








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  • Kevin
    10/26 10:57 AM

    Thank You!

  • casualobserver
    10/26 11:21 PM

    if local businesses want it to be fair, they should be arguing for the abolition of the sales tax, period.  Why does no one do this?

    And those of you who are thankful for this ruling - how are we going to feed the poor, provide shelter the homeless, and EDUCATE THE CHILDREN if we don’t get the needed tax money?  Well?  Anyone??????

  • rl
    10/27 10:53 AM

    this is one time i will say fuck nc!!!!! thank you amazon

  • Amy
    10/28 08:49 AM

    “if local businesses want it to be fair, they should be arguing for the abolition of the sales tax, period.  Why does no one do this?

    And those of you who are thankful for this ruling - how are we going to feed the poor, provide shelter the homeless, and EDUCATE THE CHILDREN if we don’t get the needed tax money?  Well?  Anyone??????”

    Eliminate waste and balance the budget?  Oh wait, that means NC politicians would actually have to think. Also, reduce NC leader’s salaries.  If they had any integrity, they would reduce their own salaries if they state is in as bad shape as they say.  How about we sell the Governor’s mansion?  I wonder it costs the state to upkeep that house.  As far as I’m concerned, if the government is losing money because they are doing a bad job, it should be like any other business-move to smaller digs.

    NC should not be collecting sales tax on Amazon sales because the state had nothing to do with the actual sale.  Amazon needs to contend with THEIR state taxes, not NC’s.

  • casual observer
    10/28 07:31 PM

    Amy -

    Keep thinking like that - and watch as our state slides further into poverty and despair.  Sales are sales are sales - and we need that tax money to provided essential services to our community.  When the schools start to do a really poor job educating our children, when the roads go unrepaired for months at a time, and when you can’t find a police officer when you need one, THEN you’ll change your tune about paying a little extra tax.  Besides - how much more would this really mean out of your pocket?  Would a few extra dollars really kill you?

  • 150
    10/29 11:40 AM

    Have to agree with Casual Observer on the tax issue.  A major beef I have is that everyone is against raising taxes (almost every politician has this as a part of their campaign) but very few then explain HOW to pay for things.  A very interesting poll was conducted recently (I don’t have a link, so don’t believe it if you want) and it showed people contradict themselves.  Everyone wants a balanced budget.  Everyone is against raising taxes.  Everyone is against cutting services.  What should be the obvious problem becomes…how do we pay for everything?
    Perhaps Amy is onto something with her suggestions about cutting waste, but her specific examples seem like a drop in the bucket I think.

  • casual observer
    10/29 06:37 PM

    Let’s face it - every organization has waste, and the government is no different.  And - let’s get real - 150 is right:  we need MORE tax dollars if we ever hope to deliver quality health care / clean air and water / better education / saturday mail / clean streets / better NPR / more police, fire, EMT, sheriff, Marshall, federal/state/local law enforcement, renewable food source subsidies, AND more needed regulation across the board. 

    Not sure where Amy is coming from - but I’m with 150.  I believe 90% of any income above $40K/year should be paid back in taxes to help support the common good.

  • Kelty Brittle
    11/03 11:56 AM

    But this is totally a privacy issue. Times are changing and the state of NC is going to have to get smarter about how they collect sales tax in the new age of digital buying across state lines. However, the answer is not in collecting and storing information on our personal book buying habits. The government has no business collecting that information from a third party without personal consent.

    The people of NC owe Amazon a thank you for fighting that battle for us. I’m sure they had their business reasons but it’s a major win on the personal privacy front. Thank you Judge Marsha Pechman and thank you Amazon!

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