Wednesday , January 18, 2017 - 5:30 AM5 comments
Starting Jan. 1, amazon.com started collecting sales taxes on purchases made by Utahns. In return, Amazon takes 1.31 percent of the action.
Utah tax officials say that’s all you need to know.
But when the state starts paying a global retailer to collect taxes on Utah’s behalf, Utahns deserve more details of the agreement.
The Libertas Institute, a libertarian think tank in Lehi, filed an open records request for a copy of the state’s contract with Amazon. When the state declined, Libertas appealed to the Utah State Tax Commission.
The commission denied Libertas’ request Monday, claiming the Government Records Access and Management Act allows the state to withhold information in order to protect trade secrets and prevent competitors from gaining a commercial advantage.
First of all, we’re talking about Amazon, the biggest e-commerce retailer in the world. Learning what it’s paid for collecting Utah sales taxes won’t give competitors an advantage in the global marketplace. Or even in Utah, for that matter.
And secondly, Utah is spending our money with Amazon.
“Taxpayers have a right to know what terms their government agreed to in order to have Amazon collect a tax that they are not legally required to,” Libertas President Connor Boyack said in a news release. “This agreement should be made public for all to see.”
As the institute points out, the government may disclose a protected document if “the interests favoring access are greater than or equal to the interest favoring restriction of access.”
Utah is contracting with a private entity to collect sales taxes. It’s our money, whether it goes to Amazon or the state. We deserve to know the details. Otherwise, how can we judge if the state acted responsibly? How can we hold state officials accountable?
Libertas says it will decide this week if it plans to appeal the GRAMA request to the State Records Committee. Challenge the ruling immediately.
Otherwise, the state is spending our tax money without public oversight.
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