Amazon begins collecting Texas sales tax

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by LARRY SEWARD

KHOU

Posted on June 30, 2012 at 6:35 PM

Updated Saturday, Jun 30 at 7:47 PM

HOUSTON — Starting Sunday, Amazon.com will start charging sales tax to its Texas customers.

Brick and mortar bookstore managers are cheering the new deal between the state and the online retailer. They say it will "even the playing field."

At Brazos Bookstore, it’s easy to find readers like Karley Little. "I’m kind of a little bit of a book fiend," she said. "I must have 8,000 books in my house."

However, it’s shoppers like Sasha Gelman who could write the next chapter in sales.

"I haven’t been to an actual bookstore in almost a year," Gelman said.

She and Irina Akatkin buy books, toys and electronics online through Amazon.com several times a month. "[We do it] because it’s cheaper and you don’t have to pay taxes," Gelman said.

"People are always looking for the best price, and sometimes the best price is online," said Jeremy Ellis, general manager at Brazos Bookstore.

Five other states have similar legislation to this new Texas law. For the state economy, it means hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue.

"At last, it puts us on a level playing field," Ellis said. "Before, [online retailers] were getting a pass from the state."

"I’m sorry that I have to pay the tax," Little said, "but I guess it’s fair. It doesn’t seem too fair that all the stores here have to complete against somebody who doesn’t have to pay it."

Akatkin and Gelman are not happy.

"[It’s] bad, bad, bad," Akatkin said. "Depending on the price, most of the time Amazon has [a] better price anyway, so it’s not like I will not shop there."

"[Amazon’s] prices are still pretty competitive, but [paying sales tax] does take away some of the advantage," Gelman said.

They said it gives stores like Brazos a better chance to win business, which opens doors to customers some bookstores have never seen.

As part of its agreement with the state, Amazon said it plans to create at least 2,500 jobs and will make at least $200 million in capital investments in Texas over the next four years.

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