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Californians, Your Taxes Go Up on Saturday

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Opinion: Californians, Your Taxes Go Up on Saturday

Some Californians may not know this, but the question of whether taxes will go up this fall has already been decided. They will. The tax increase hits on Saturday.

This has nothing to do with tax-hiking ballot measures such as Propositions 30, 38 and 39. This about Internet sales tax. And Amazon.

On Saturday, Amazon begins collecting sales tax from those purchasing its products in California.

Technically, this isn't a tax increase. Californians have always owed taxes on their online purchases from out-of-state companies.

But the overwhelming majority of Caifornians haven't paid such taxes - ever.

And it was too difficult for the state to go after them. Instead, California lawmakers, backed by brick-and-mortar retailers, have pushed Amazon and other online retailers to collect the tax themselves.

The retailers resisted, maintaining they have no physical presence in the state.

Amazon even revoked agreements with Californians who use Amazon to sell their own things. But Amazon has finally changed its mind, and agreed to collect the sales tax. (The company continues to push for federal law that would make it clear that states can collect sales taxes -- so it doesn't lose out to other online retailers.)

The advantage to Amazon of doing this is that it opens the door for the company to build and operate distribution centers in the state.
 

And it is building such centers on the outskirts of the Bay Area (Patterson) and of Los Angeles (San Bernardino). Those warehouses will allow Amazon to serve two of the country's major urban areas more quickly.

The practical result is that for most Californians, buying online at Amazon will cost you more beginning this weekend.

It will be interesting to see if Friday is an especially busy day for Amazon among Californians.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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