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LI businesses respond to Amazon Prime Day by promoting local shopping

Amazon is required to collect taxes on sales to buyers in New York, but sales tax collection is not required when state residents buy from third-party sellers. Local retailers and advocates Monday called on the state to level the playing field.

Long Island small business leaders gathered Monday at

Long Island small business leaders gathered Monday at P.C. Richard & Son in Plainview to push for broader collection of sales taxes on online purchases. Photo Credit: Michael Owens

Amazon Prime Day kicked off Monday with the world’s second-largest retailer offering more than 1 million shopping deals, the same day Long Island retailers and business advocates gathered to call for New York State to level the playing field when it comes to online sales tax collection.

About 30 representatives from ShopRite, Bayview Florist, Costello’s Ace Hardware, chambers of commerce and other organizations gathered for a press conference in Plainview in front of a P.C. Richard & Son store, which is part of the Farmingdale-based appliance and electronics chain.  

The group called for the state to take action following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 21 decision allowing states to require online retailers to collect sales tax even if they don't have a physical presence in the state. The speakers also encouraged residents to shop locally owned stores.

Amazon's website ran into some snags Monday, an embarrassment for the tech company on the much-hyped shopping "holiday" it created.

Shoppers clicking on many Prime Day links after the 3 p.m. launch saw the words, "Uh-oh. Something went wrong on our end." Many took to social media to complain. By about 4:30 p.m., many Prime Day links were working.

Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, estimated Prime Day will generate $3.4 billion in sales worldwide.

Local retailers said they have just as much to offer as Amazon, including ecommerce sites.

“Basically, I think everybody standing here is ‘prime.’  We don’t have our heads stuck in the sand,” Francesca Carlow, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce and chief financial officer of Trio Hardware in Plainview, said Monday at the press conference.

The local business groups are asking online retailers, such as "Amazon and Overstock.com, who really are hurting brick and mortar … to pay their fair share and get on it right now because legislation will be coming,” Carlow said.

Major online retailers, including Amazon, are already required to collect taxes on sales directly to buyers in New York, but sales tax collection is not required for transactions between state residents and out-of-state third-party sellers, such as those on Amazon Marketplace.

Amazon denies it is unfairly competing with brick-and-mortar stores.

“We collect sales tax on all of our own products in every state. We also collect on behalf of our sellers in states that have passed new laws allowing us to do so, which is Washington, Pennsylvania and Minnesota,” the Seattle-based company said Monday.

Midvale, Utah-based Overstock.com said it collects sales tax on every applicable purchase.

Not only are local retailers at a disadvantage on taxes but they are being overlooked while they contribute to local jobs and support their communities, business owners said.

“When the local toy store, hardware store, sporting goods store or jewelry store stays in business, it uses the local accountant, insurance agent, maybe even lawyer, and more,” said Gina Coletti, co-chair of the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers.

Earlier this year, Senate Republicans criticized Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to expand sales tax collection; it was not included in the state’s budget.

Vision Long Island, a Northport-based nonprofit planning group, plans to continue to lobby the state legislature to enact a stronger online sales tax law, executive director Eric Alexander said. — with the Associated Press

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