First Texas. Then South Carolina. Now, Amazon.com is reportedly considering canceling plans for two distribution centers in Tennessee. Once again, the issue is sales tax collection — a sore point for the online retailer.
The distribution facilities, located near Chattanooga, could employ as many as 1,400 people in the state. Amazon.com pulled the plug on a distribution facility in South Carolina in recent weeks after it lost a tax battle in the state. That facility would have employed 1,200 people. The online retailer made a similar decision in Texas earlier this year.
Amazon.com does not want to collect sales tax on customers in the states where it operates fulfillment centers. And, the normally press shy company, is beating that drum pretty vigorously in Tennessee where it has already committed some $139 million to the new warehouses.
Paul Misener, alluding to two states Amazon says it is leaving in response to similar situations.
“Here’s the thing: Sure, they can pass a bill and we can go and litigate it, and we’re confident that we can ultimately win,” Paul Misener, vice president of public policy tells Chattanooga’s Free Times Press. “But why would we want to come to a state that made a commitment not to harass us in this way and then, once we get there, the very first thing we face is a lawsuit? It just doesn’t make any sense. Why not go to Indiana where we’re welcome?”
Amazon.com already collects sales tax in Washington state, but the Seattle-based company does have a wide array operations beyond distribution centers here. However, the battles in South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee could spark more jobs in Amazon’s home state.
Just this week, Amazon.com announced plans to open a 500,000 square foot distribution center in Sumner. Of course, given Washington state’s geographic isolation in the Pacific Northwest, it may not make as much sense for the company to build distribution centers here, especially when compared to locations in the Midwest.
Amazon.com opened 13 fulfillment centers last year. It originally planned to open nine new facilities this year, though in a recent call with financial analysts the company said it may open more.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that the state “does have a commitment to Amazon” and he’s contemplating ways to deal with legislation proposed by two Republican lawmakers who want to require the retailer to collect sales tax on goods sold in the state, according to the Times Free Press.