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Amazon Looks to Fill Several Hundred Full-time Positions in Mid-TN

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development; August 3, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Jobseekers in middle Tennessee are invited to begin applying at Tennessee Career Centers on Monday, August 6, for jobs at Amazon’s fulfillment centers in Lebanon and Murfreesboro. These new fulfillment centers will fill customer orders for Amazon and the many third-party sellers from Tennessee and around the country that use fulfillment by Amazon. Amazon is working with Tennessee Career Centers to conduct initial screenings to fill several hundred full-time positions at their new facilities. Interviews will begin right away, so applicants are encouraged to apply immediately. The facilities are expected to begin operations this fall.

“We’re very excited to partner with Amazon to help employ qualified Tennessee applicants at their fulfillment centers,” said Labor Commissioner Karla Davis. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our community.”

Warehouse associates pack and ship customer orders and are empowered to troubleshoot problems. Ideal candidates possesses a strong work ethic, attention to detail, ability to meet deadlines, and a commitment to customer service as it relates to product fulfillment. Warehouse associates are expected to understand all aspects of production and adhere to strict safety, quality, and production standards.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • High School diploma or equivalent
  • Willing to work all shifts
  • Work overtime as required
  • Read and take direction in English
  • Pass a post offer, pre-employment drug screen and background check
  • Must lift up to 49 pounds
  • Stand / walk for shifts 10-12 hours long
  • Willing to frequently push, pull, squat, bend and reach

Hourly Starting Pay Rate Range: $11.00 (Warehouse Position) to $13.00 (Lead Warehouse Position), plus shift differential, variable compensation pay, company stock, and comprehensive benefits.

With over 65,000 employees worldwide, Amazon has fulfillment centers in multiple states. Amazon already operates fulfillment centers in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Lebanon, employing more than 2,500 workers.

Applications for Amazon jobs are available at the following middle Tennessee Career Center locations from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning August 6 through August 17: Dickson, Franklin, Gallatin, Lebanon, McMinnville, Metro Center, Murfreesboro, and Nashville South. For contact information and directions to the Tennessee Career Center nearest you visit http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/cc/cccounty.shtml.

Haslam: Fed Gov’t ‘Enabling’ Evasion of Taxes Due to State

Gov. Bill Haslam insists a federal plan requiring online merchants to collect sales taxes is the way to go, despite it meaning online shoppers would be forced to cough up more money for government to spend.

Fresh from testifying before Congress in favor of such a plan, Haslam told reporters Wednesday the current system is “enabling people to get around the law.”

“The tax is already due. There’s no question,” he told reporters in Dickson. “I think the basic thing is an issue of fairness. If you’re a hardware store out here on Main Street or a business of any type, you’re competing with people on the Internet who don’t have to collect the sales tax. I just don’t think that’s right.”

Haslam wrestled with this concept last year during negotiations with Amazon, an online retailer that ultimately agreed to open four warehouses in Tennessee in exchange for not collecting sales taxes from Tennessee customers until 2014 unless the federal government requires it earlier.

The issue sparked division among state lawmakers. Some argued the online retailer should have been forced to begin collecting sales taxes immediately, just like brick-and-mortar retailers. Others said the requirement would have constituted a tax increase on average Tennesseans.

However, lawmakers agreed to the deal and rewrote provisions into state law to codify the plan.

Haslam’s interpretation of what does or does not constitute a tax increase isn’t universally accepted among Tennessee conservatives. Examiner.com blogger David Oatney took Haslam to task on the issue this week, saying that, regardless of how the governor prefers spinning it, as far as consumers are concerned, “Going from not being taxed to being taxed is a tax increase-period!”

According to Oatney:

The Governor can phrase this however he wants, but this legislation both increases taxes and cripples competition. What the Governor is calling “leveling the playing field” is really “forcing out-of-State businesses who do mail-order business to collect other States’ sales taxes for them.” It is designed to favor so-called brick-and-mortar retailers in their competitive business battle against internet businesses that have advanced into the 21st Century. If the situation involved other means of business and trade, some of these same people would be crying that this legislation was government “protectionism.” The double-standard in this situation reeks and is politically foul-smelling.

Haslam, who was representing the National Governors Association in Washington, told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that Tennessee was losing out on an estimated $400 million annually in sales tax revenue.

The future of any federal legislation is uncertain. There are three proposals circulating the nation’s capitol, and neither party wants to let the other claim victory on getting a measure passed.

Nat’l Online Business Trade Assn. Opposes New Internet Taxes

Press Release from NetChoice, July 23, 2012:

Washington, D.C. – NetChoice Executive Director Steve DelBianco today testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the dangers of enacting the Main Street Fairness Act (H.R. 3179).

While the proposal is intended to put traditional brick-and-mortar retailers on a level playing field with online retailers, it widely misses that mark while adding unfair new tax burdens on small online and catalog businesses.

NetChoice also announced its membership in a coalition dedicated to opposing new taxes on Internet sales. The True Simplification of Taxation (TruST) Coalition represents American businesses in the fight to keep interstate commerce and competition free from unfair tax burdens imposed by states where our businesses have no operations or representation.

Businesses that sell goods and services online are already required to collect taxes in areas where they have a physical location. Research shows that uncollected taxes related to online sales equal less than one half of one percent of state tax revenues.

“Even though the vast majority of online sales taxes are already collected, state tax collectors and big box retailers are teaming up to levy taxes on businesses that have no local presence,” said Steve DelBianco, executive director or NetChoice. “TruST will counter this new tax campaign that would saddle online retailers with a new and burdensome tax system that weigh most heavily on the smallest of sellers.”

States have tried and failed to simplify their tax systems in a way that would not add cost or complexity for online retailers. Having failed at that program, tax collectors are now asking Congress for the authority to tax first and answer questions later.

TruST will be an ongoing resource for those mobilizing against new online taxes that will slow and harm the growth of online retail.

NetChoice is an advocacy organization that fights threats to online commerce and promotes policies that protect Internet innovation and communication on a state, federal and international basis. The Washington, DC-based group protects Internet commerce-driven competition and battles rules that hinder consumer choice and hurt small businesses. For more information, see www.netchoice.org.

Amazon Seeks 1,500 for Full-time Positions in Lebanon, Murfreesboro

Press release from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development; June 29, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Jobseekers in middle Tennessee are invited to begin applying at Tennessee Career Centers on Monday, July 2, for jobs at Amazon’s fulfillment centers in Lebanon and Murfreesboro. These new fulfillment centers will fill customer orders for Amazon and the many third-party sellers from Tennessee and around the country that use fulfillment by Amazon. Amazon is working with Tennessee Career Centers to conduct initial screenings and scheduling of interviews to fill more than 1,500 full-time positions at their new facilities. Interviews will begin in July, so applicants are encouraged to apply immediately. The facilities are expected to begin operations this fall.

“We’re very excited to partner with Amazon to help employ qualified Tennessee applicants at their fulfillment centers,” said Labor Commissioner Karla Davis. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our community.”

Warehouse associates pack and ship customer orders and are empowered to troubleshoot problems. Ideal candidates possesses a strong work ethic, attention to detail, ability to meet deadlines, and a commitment to customer service as it relates to product fulfillment. Warehouse associates are expected to understand all aspects of production and adhere to strict safety, quality, and production standards.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • High School diploma or equivalent
  • Willing to work all shifts
  • Work overtime as required
  • Read and take direction in English
  • Pass a post offer, pre-employment drug screen and background check
  • Must lift up to 49 pounds
  • Stand / walk for shifts 10-12 hours long
  • Willing to frequently push, pull, squat, bend and reach

Hourly Starting Pay Rate Range: $11.00 (Warehouse Position) to $13.00 (Lead Warehouse Position), plus shift differential, variable compensation pay, company stock, and comprehensive benefits.

With over 65,000 employees worldwide, Amazon has fulfillment centers in multiple states. Amazon already operates fulfillment centers in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Lebanon, employing more than 2,500 workers.

Applications for Amazon jobs are available at the following middle Tennessee Career Center locations from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning July 2 through July 13: Dickson, Franklin, Gallatin, Lebanon, McMinnville, Metro Center, Murfreesboro, and Nashville South. For contact information and directions to the Tennessee Career Center nearest you visit http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/cc/cccounty.shtml.

Amazon Sales Tax Collection Measure Advances

Lawmakers spent much of last year riding a political roller coaster to define Amazon.com’s role in collecting sales taxes from online shoppers. This week they made their first move to approve a deal reached between the state and the online retail titan.

Just a day before Gov. Bill Haslam toured the new Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga Thursday, a House Finance subcommittee easily approved legislation to seal a deal with Amazon to collect sales taxes from its online shoppers beginning in 2014. It will amount to about $23 million a year, according to legislative analysis.

“These sales taxes are already due,” House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, told the committee as he pitched the bill. “This simply is a collection issue, and they have agreed to collect the sales tax.”

The deal means Tennessee taxpayers who shop online will get to hold on to about $40 million in revenue that could be collected between now and 2014, according to legislative staff.

Haslam and Amazon.com executives announced a deal in October where the Internet retailer would make a $350 million investment by opening distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties. The Internet retailer is opening additional centers in Lebanon and Murfreesboro.

The arrangement, which was called “Project Tango” by officials, grew out of a deal struck between outgoing Gov. Phil Bredesen and Amazon executives just weeks before Haslam took office.

Lawmakers quickly split on the issue. Although they liked the prospect of Amazon creating thousands of jobs in the state, some argue the company ought to be forced to collect money from Tennesseans for the government just like any other business located here.

One of those critics, who says he is satisfied with the current deal, says he doesn’t see the bill hitting any snags making its way through the Legislature, even though Amazon has brokered deals in other states that require the company to collect sales taxes as soon as September.

“There are a number of states that are not collecting a penny, and this is something we were able to work out, plus the benefit that we are going to have four distribution centers in the state of Tennessee. I think that’s a good thing,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin.

The issue is one of national significance. Amazon has argued there is no uniform law that requires it to collect sales taxes and that the company doesn’t meet a legal threshold called “nexus” for collecting the taxes because it doesn’t have brick-and-mortar sales facilities in many states seeking the tax.

Giving the Internet retailer a pass on collecting sales taxes is unfair to Tennessee business with a physical state presence because they have to charge customers the tax, says critics with the Tennessee Alliance for Main Street Fairness, a fierce opponent to the Amazon deal in Tennessee and across the country.

Only a federal law requiring the retailer collect sales taxes in all states would trigger Amazon to collect sales taxes any earlier than 2014.

House Speaker Beth Harwell, who met with Amazon executives Wednesday, said she too sees no trouble writing the deal into state law, but wants a national solution from Washington.

“Our federal government has got to take action on this issue, and until they do, all of our hands are tied,” she said.

The state legislation is up again for discussion in both the House Finance committee and the Senate tax subcommittee Tuesday.

It’s Official: Amazon Announces Plans to Open Facilities in Wilson, Rutherford Counties

News Release from Amazon.com; Dec. 22, 2011: 

Nashville, TN – Dec. 22, 2011 – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced Amazon’s plans to open two new fulfillment centers in Tennessee, creating over 1,300 new jobs and $135 million in investment in the state. Together with existing facilities in Wilson, Hamilton and Bradley Counties, Amazon will now be creating more than 3,300 jobs and more than $270 million in investment in Tennessee.

“This is exciting news for Middle Tennessee and the entire state as Amazon continues to grow and expand its presence here,” Haslam said. “We appreciate the company’s significant investment and ongoing partnership to create and grow Tennessee jobs.”

“We’re thrilled to create more than 1,300 additional jobs in Tennessee and are thankful to Governor Haslam and state, county and local leaders for their continued commitment to Amazon jobs and investment,” said Dave Clark, vice president, Amazon North American operations. “We’re proud to call Tennessee home and look forward to serving our customers from these new facilities in Murfreesboro and Lebanon.”

As a growing member of the Tennessee community, Amazon also announced that it is donating $20,000 to the Books from Birth Foundation for its chapters in Wilson, Rutherford, Bradley and Hamilton counties – the locations of Amazon’s current and future fulfillment centers. Books from Birth is a nonprofit organization committed to helping preschool children develop their love of learning and reading.

“Today is another great day in Murfreesboro,” said Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg. “I am so proud and excited that Amazon has chosen Murfreesboro as its site of choice for one of their newest facilities. Having Amazon create so many new jobs here will be a great boost to our economy, and will provide our citizens the opportunity to have good quality jobs with a well known, respected, growing company.”

“Having a household name like Amazon in Rutherford County just adds to our county’s portfolio of top corporate entities in our area,” said Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess. “With the national and global economies struggling to recover, this proves that Rutherford County is a destination for jobs and we wish Amazon great success in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County.”

“On behalf of Lebanon, TN, I want to thank Amazon and their partners for their confidence and commitment to our city,” said Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead. “This would not have been possible without the cooperation of the City Commission and its many city of Lebanon staff members, along with the contributions and financial support from the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority. We look forward to growing this new partnership for the benefit of our citizens, our city and for Amazon.”

“I’m pleased to see the city of Lebanon and Wilson County work together on such an important project and I look forward to welcoming Amazon and their operation to Wilson County,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. “I want to thank the Wilson County Commission, the Industrial Development Bond Board and the office of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County for their support and efforts in bringing another internationally known corporation to the community. A project of this nature only occurs when governments, the community and the company work together for the betterment of all.”

Amazon’s new facilities are expected to be completed next fall. Amazon Fulfillment Centers in Tennessee are operated by Amazon.com.dedc LLC.

About Amazon.com

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth’s Biggest Selection. Amazon.com, Inc. seeks to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices. Amazon.com and other sellers offer millions of unique new, refurbished and used items in categories such as Books; Movies, Music & Games; Digital Downloads; Electronics & Computers; Home & Garden; Toys, Kids & Baby; Grocery; Apparel, Shoes & Jewelry; Health & Beauty; Sports & Outdoors; and Tools, Auto & Industrial. Amazon Web Services provides Amazon’s developer customers with access to in-the-cloud infrastructure services based on Amazon’s own back-end technology platform, which developers can use to enable virtually any type of business. The new latest generation Kindle is the lightest, most compact Kindle ever and features the same 6-inch, most advanced electronic ink display that reads like real paper even in bright sunlight. Kindle Touch is a new addition to the Kindle family with an easy-to-use touch screen that makes it easier than ever to turn pages, search, shop, and take notes – still with all the benefits of the most advanced electronic ink display. Kindle Touch 3G is the top of the line e-reader and offers the same new design and features of Kindle Touch, with the unparalleled added convenience of free 3G. Kindle Fire is the Kindle for movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps, games and web browsing with all the content, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, Whispersync, Amazon Silk (Amazon’s new revolutionary cloud-accelerated web browser), vibrant color touch screen, and powerful dual-core processor.

Amazon and its affiliates operate websites, including www.amazon.com, www.amazon.co.uk, www.amazon.de, www.amazon.co.jp, www.amazon.fr, www.amazon.ca, www.amazon.cn, www.amazon.it, and www.amazon.es. As used herein, “Amazon.com,” “we,” “our” and similar terms include Amazon.com, Inc., and its subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.

Forward-Looking Statements

This announcement contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Actual results may differ significantly from management’s expectations. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that include, among others, risks related to competition, management of growth, new products, services and technologies, potential fluctuations in operating results, international expansion, outcomes of legal proceedings and claims, fulfillment center optimization, seasonality, commercial agreements, acquisitions and strategic transactions, foreign exchange rates, system interruption, inventory, government regulation and taxation, payments and fraud. More information about factors that potentially could affect Amazon.com’s financial results is included in Amazon.com’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent filings.

 

Taxpayers Voluntarily Forked Over $4.8 Million in Online Sales Taxes

Tennessee revenue officials say they are taking steps to ensure the public understands they’re supposed to be paying sales taxes when they shop online, although very few taxpayers do it.

Last year, the state collected $4.8 million in use taxes voluntarily paid. Economists suggest in the same period, the state was owed more than $300 million by its citizens.

After months of controversy about whether to allow Amazon.com to slide on playing tax-collector for the government in exchange for creating new jobs, Gov. Bill Haslam found a compromise. The state plans to let Amazon off the hook for sales tax collections until 2014, or until the federal government comes up with a national plan.

The governor has rejected suggestions that Amazon’s tax collections in two years will have the same effect as a tax increase on the people of Tennessee. Lawmakers have as well.

“I do not see this as a tax increase at all. They’re paying the taxes that, in my opinion, they owed anyway,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told reporters earlier this month.

Last fiscal year the state collected just over 3,000 consumer tax returns with an average of $1,500 in money to cover their tax on online purchases.

TNReport traded emails this week with Linda Kelley, the director of taxpayer and vehicle services in the Tennessee Department of Revenue, about the rules behind online sales tax collections.

TNReport: Is it illegal for customers to skip out on paying sales taxes on online purchases when the seller, such as Amazon.com, doesn’t collect the taxes?

KELLEY: When someone buys merchandise online or through a catalog, and the seller of the merchandise does not collect sales tax, the consumer who purchased the item has a legal obligation to file and pay use tax on the merchandise. This generally occurs when a user purchases articles from an out-of-state dealer not registered for Tennessee tax. This use tax has been on the books since 1947 and is the same rate as the sales tax. (Tennessee Code Annotated Section 67-6-203). The Department of Revenue’s Sales & Use Tax Guide provides additional information on “Who is Liable for Use Tax” on Page 9.

TNReport: How much did the state lose this year in online sales tax collections?

KELLEY: It is not possible for us to answer this question because the data is simply not available.

TNReport: How many people actually do pay their online sales taxes to online retailers? And how much did they pay last budget year?

KELLEY: During fiscal year 2011, 3,041 consumer use tax returns were filed with the Department. These taxpayers voluntarily remitted a total of $4,783,583 for the period.

TNReport: When do they pay the tax?

KELLEY: Depending on the frequency of purchases, consumers must file the use tax return and pay the taxes either monthly, quarterly, semiannually, or annually. The return is due on the 20th of the month following the close of the applicable period. Consumers can e-file their consumer use tax via Revenue’s Web site at http://www.state.tn.us/revenue/onlinefiling/salesanduse/salestaxefile.htm.

TNReport: What is the penalty for individual taxpayers for not paying the tax on internet purchases?

KELLEY: There is a range of penalties imposed, depending on the specific circumstances. Taxpayers who are delinquent in paying the tax are charged a penalty of anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent plus interest, depending on the length of time they have been delinquent. If the failure to pay taxes is determined to be due to negligence, the taxpayer would face a penalty in the amount of 10 percent of the tax due along with interest. If a failure to pay taxes is determined to be due to fraud, the taxpayer would receive a 100 percent penalty along with the interest due.

Amazon Compromise Mirrors McNally’s ‘Grace Period’ Idea

Sen. Randy McNally, chairman of the Senate finance committee, says retailers still upset with Amazon’s tax agreement with the state aren’t likely to get a better deal than the one negotiated by the Haslam administration.

McNally, R-Oak Ridge, one of the key figures in trying to have the company start collecting sales tax from Tennesseans, said further action in opposition to the deal is up to those other retailers, but he said, “Certainly, if I was asked to give them advice, I would tell them that this is far and away the best deal they could get.”

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday that the state has a new deal with Amazon, in which the online retailer will begin collecting sales taxes in 2014, while Amazon commits to increasing its job total in the state to 3,500 positions on an investment of up to $350 million.

McNally said he hopes this will settle the matter of Amazon’s tax status and suggests that the overall online sales tax issue should go through the courts to be resolved nationally, because he believes Congress is unlikely to act to bring uniformity to the collection of state sales taxes.

Recent reports say Amazon has its sights on locations in Rutherford and Wilson counties, as it seeks to grow its presence in Middle Tennessee, the latest development in a story that began last fall when former Gov. Phil Bredesen gave Amazon the ability to avoid collecting taxes in exchange for building distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties. Haslam’s administration and Amazon negotiated the new arrangement.

The retail group Alliance for Main Street Fairness immediately objected to the Haslam agreement, saying 2014 is too long to wait, noting in particular that the deal gives Amazon three holiday shopping seasons before it has to collect. The brick-and-mortar retailers continued their campaign over the weekend with newspaper advertising objecting to the deal, saying California got an agreement for Amazon to collect beginning in 2012 and that the same should apply in Tennessee.

Haslam said he will submit the new deal in the form of legislation, to be considered when the General Assembly convenes in January. McNally and Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, chairman of the House finance committee, had initiated legislation this year and twice submitted requests for opinions from state Attorney General Robert Cooper on the matter. Cooper’s most recent opinion said no retailer can escape responsibility to collect the tax, although he said the commissioner of Revenue has wide discretion.

Haslam saw McNally at the funeral in Madisonville Oct. 2 for Lance Cpl. Frankie Watson, a Marine killed in Afghanistan. The governor told McNally that day he wanted to talk to him a couple of days later about Amazon. McNally was scheduled for surgery in Oak Ridge that Tuesday, so Haslam filled him in then on the plan. The surgery was why McNally did not attend the press conference at the Capitol on Thursday.

Haslam told McNally of the two-year forgiveness period on the tax collections and that after that the playing field would be level. McNally had suggested a two-year “grace period” as a possible solution to the matter in July. McNally said Friday he was taking no credit for the final agreement and that Haslam had not suggested that McNally’s idea was the catalyst for the deal. Neither did McNally ask if his idea had been the foundation of the arrangement.

“It just seemed to be in the best interest of the state,” McNally said.

One of the key elements of Amazon’s strategy appears to be centered on geographical factors.

The Nashville Business Journal posted a story online Friday morning saying Amazon will choose a site in Murfreesboro off Joe B. Jackson Boulevard for a facility involving 1,100 jobs and a capital investment of $87.5 million. Another facility, the Business Journal reported, would be in Lebanon, near Interstate 840, that would create up to 450 full-time jobs, a $51.5 million investment.

“I know they’re looking at sites that are close to Interstates,” Sargent said Saturday. “The same with Lebanon. They can get on Interstate 40, they can get on Interstate 840 and go all the way across to I-65 and I-24.

“Transportation is a big thing to them.”

Access to multiple Interstate highways, waterways and other modes of transportation, especially the presence of FedEx in Memphis, make Tennessee an attractive location for many different companies, state officials say.

In a recent interview with TNReport, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said logistics, one of the six major clusters of businesses the administration has identified in the state, is the premier cluster, even ahead of auto manufacturing and health care.

“You’ll see a theme running through all the clusters,” Hagerty said. “You’d be surprised. Even with health care, if you look at all the medical device operations around Memphis, they’re there because FedEx is there.

“An orthopedic firm can have their products on a plane and in a surgical field tomorrow. So they can inventory all these expensive things there, make them to order if they need to, and have it in the operating room the next day.”

Neither McNally, Sargent nor Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, Senate speaker pro tempore, said they were aware Friday of sites being chosen by Amazon. Sargent said he got the chance for the first time Thursday to sit down and talk to Paul Misener, vice president for global public policy for Amazon, after a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday announcing the deal.

“They’re very excited about it,” Sargent said.

The Business Journal reported the Rutherford Industrial Development Board approved a 20-year tax break for Amazon. The Tennessean in Nashville reported the same tax break for the potential site in La Vergne or Murfreesboro, as well as a 15-year tax break for Amazon for a second, smaller facility in Rutherford County.

The Tennessean also reported incentives in Wilson County that include a $3.8-million tax break offered by the county and a break of $439,000 to $550,000 in property tax breaks by the city of Lebanon, with Amazon agreeing to make an annual payment of $28,900. State officials have said there are no state incentives in their deal with Amazon beyond standard incentives for job training and infrastructure.

Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, emphasized Friday that the deal was not done and that reports he was hearing of were premature.

“The last thing you want to hear is reports out of Rutherford County that Rutherford County got the deal and two weeks later learn that we didn’t get the deal,” Carr said.

Carr confirmed, however, that Rutherford County is very much in the running for sites to be chosen.

McNally, who had issued a formal statement on Friday expressing his support of the Haslam deal, seemed pleased with the outcome but voiced continued concern about the bigger picture.

“I think, hopefully, this would settle the issue with Amazon,” McNally said. “Now, long-term there is an enormous issue about out-of-state retailers that don’t have a presence in Tennessee that aren’t collecting the sales tax and how the states can address that.

“It’s been my theory that they ought to try to go back through the courts again. That probably would be the best option, because I doubt Congress would touch this with a 10-foot pole.”

The issue has been litigated most notably with a 1992 case involving Quill Corp., a mail-order company that made catalog sales. The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled there was sufficient presence, or nexus, of Quill in North Dakota that required Quill to collect the sales tax there. But the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the state court, saying the case did not represent sufficient nexus as it related to the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution.

For years, states have turned an eye to Congress to settle the matter legislatively, but many observers, including McNally, see Congress as unlikely to get involved in an issue that would increase tax collections for the states. Haslam called again Thursday for a national solution.

New Amazon Deal Praised As Improvement On Deal, Not Backtracking

When all was said and done in the announcement Thursday that Amazon will collect sales taxes in Tennessee beginning in 2014, the state was in a different place from its original agreement with the online sales giant.

The original plan had been that Tennessee would get hundreds of jobs from two distribution centers in the Chattanooga area, so in return the state would let Amazon avoid collecting sales taxes on purchases. The deal was subject to debate almost from the time it became known.

Now, with a commitment that will bring the total number of Amazon jobs to 3,500 in the state, Amazon will have to collect sales taxes, although it is not soon enough for some critics of the deal.

So by negotiating a new deal with the company, taxes included, does that mean that in the big picture Tennessee went back on its word?

“No, absolutely not,” said Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, pointing to the efforts of Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner of Revenue Richard Roberts. “I’m proud the governor and the commissioner were able to sit down with Amazon and work out an arrangement that is pleasing not only to Amazon but also to the taxpayers of this state.

“I think it is a fair way to bring a large number of jobs to the state of Tennessee.”

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, called the announcement Thursday a “big win for unified Republican government on the jobs front.”

“The governor has negotiated a deal that promotes economic growth and jobs creation while protecting the interests of brick-and-mortar businesses who are the backbone of our economy,” Ramsey said in a formal statement.

“This is a good solution for the state of Tennessee, and I commend the governor for resolving this.”

Deputy Gov. Claude Ramsey said the deal simply means an improvement on what the state had before.

“It didn’t go back on its word. It just worked out a better deal,” Claude Ramsey said.

The deputy governor was asked if the new deal would in any way be detrimental to future negotiations with other companies.

“No, sir,” he said. “Because I think it shows that there is a solution. We worked to a solution.”

The original deal was struck by a Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, who told Haslam of his plans and the reasons behind them: Get the jobs and collect no taxes, or lose the jobs and collect no taxes. Haslam, a Republican and newly elected when Bredesen told him of the deal, told Bredesen he would honor the agreement.

But ultimately, the Haslam administration engaged Amazon in an entirely new discussion. The result was an arrangement where Amazon not only would be collecting the sales tax but would be adding jobs to the point its total commitment had grown to 3,500 jobs and $350 million.

The entire scenario involved a Democratic administration sacrificing a substantial amount of revenue and a Republican administration doing everything it could to collect owed taxes — shifts from the stereotypical depictions of Democrats as tax-and-spenders and Republicans as advocates of revenue reduction.

Republicans did so in the name of tax fairness, yet other retailers were not satisfied that Amazon still gets until 2014 to start collecting and remitting.

In the Legislature, it was a Republican duo, Sen. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge and Rep. Charles Sargent of Franklin, who had contemplated legislation to force the tax collections.

Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, speaker pro tem, said the new deal does not go against the original deal.

“I don’t think you can say it’s anything against the original agreement,” Watson said. “I think this is a continuation of dialogue that’s been going on between the administration and Amazon since the original agreement was discussed.

“All along, as this whole debate has been occurring, many of us, me being one, have been saying that conversations have been continuing, and this is just a continuation of that conversation.”

Democrats held a press conference Thursday, calling for $15 million toward a jobs plan. When they were asked about the Amazon deal, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh did what Haslam did and emphasized the part of the deal that was about jobs, not taxes.

“I think the primary focus is on the jobs, the jobs that the Bredesen administration brought here through Amazon, and through an agreement that has to do with the revenue, that there’s going to be another 2,000 jobs on top of that,” Fitzhugh said.

“So I think that’s the key thing we have to focus on in these times, which as everybody has said, is jobs.”

Mike Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said, “The law is already on the books. You’re supposed to be paying that tax as it is now.

“There’s no new taxes being added to the books because of what we’re doing.”

Andrea Zelinski contributed to this report.

Amended Amazon Pact Applauded, Panned

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam — with an Amazon executive and several state legislators standing with him — announced a new agreement between the state and the company Thursday calling for Amazon to collect sales taxes starting in 2014.

But the rumbling in what has been one of the state’s most controversial issues was not put to rest.

Other retailers, who have fought Amazon because of its advantage in not collecting sales taxes as an online business, immediately criticized the deal. They cited the time element, saying the deal still gives Amazon more than two years, including three holiday shopping seasons, of what brick-and-mortar retailers believe is special treatment.

“If Amazon can agree to start collecting the sales tax in one year in California, why should we have to wait one day longer in Tennessee?” asked Mike Cohen, spokesperson for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness in Tennessee, in a formal statement.

“How many Tennessee jobs are lost, how many Tennessee businesses will close because the state grants Amazon a huge price advantage by not having to charge sales taxes?”

The Haslam announcement, made at the Capitol, also brings a commitment from Amazon to create a total of 3,500 full-time jobs and thousands of seasonal jobs in the state in a $350 million investment by the company, which ups the number of 1,500 jobs originally announced.

The Haslam administration said there are some standard incentive dollars for job training and basic infrastructure for new sites Amazon will be building in the state as part of the new deal. But “there are no other incentive dollars involved,” Haslam said.

Haslam said the agreement applies unless a national solution, which would bring all states under the same framework on state sales tax collections, comes first. Many people believe Congress should act to make application of sales tax law the same for online and traditional retailers.

The new agreement is a dramatic shift from the original deal struck by the state with Amazon, in which former Gov. Phil Bredesen and his team evidently agreed to allow Amazon to forego collecting sales taxes in exchange for creating hundreds of jobs with distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties.

Haslam had agreed to honor that original deal, and state officials Thursday insisted the new agreement does not mean the state has gone back on its word.

Paul Misener, vice president for global public policy for Amazon, appeared with Haslam at the announcement, as did Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, chairman of the House finance committee, who had led a legislative effort to force Amazon to collect the taxes.

“We are proud that this world-wide brand has chosen to make such a significant investment in Tennessee and that they’re committed to expanding their presence here as well,” Haslam said.

“This agreement balances several needs, the needs of the company and the needs of the state by providing certainty to Amazon and to brick-and-mortar retailers about the collection of the sales tax. And it means more jobs for Tennesseans.”

Haslam said the agreement reached with Amazon will be presented to the Legislature when it convenes in January.

That was seen as a possible nod to a state attorney general’s opinion issued in the last week that said sales made electronically do not change a retailer’s obligation to collect the tax, although the opinion acknowledged the commissioner of Revenue has wide discretion. But Haslam said the administration probably would have gone through the Legislature anyway. Haslam said the deal was 98 percent completed before the opinion was issued.

“I’ve been asked several times over the course of the last couple of months if working on an agreement like this is doing what we said we would do as a state. The answer is yes,” Haslam said. “The scope of the project has changed, with the addition of newly planned facilities here, and that conversation in the Legislature and in states across the country has had an impact.”

Misener said the announcement was “a really remarkable event.”

“It’s a big deal for us, and I’m happy that it is also is a big deal for Tennessee,” Misener said.

The Amazon executive said his company supports efforts to streamline sales tax collections nationally.

“The sales tax issue must be resolved in Congress,” Misener said. “It’s the only way the state of Tennessee will be able to retain all the sales tax revenue that can be collected for the state.

“We are committed to going to Washington with the state’s leaders, both here in Nashville and also in Washington, to obtain that sales tax legislation as soon as possible.”

Haslam and Misener complimented Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty for their work in the negotiations. Hagerty had been scheduled to speak to the Rotary Club of Dyersburg on Thursday but cancelled to be at the Nashville announcement.

Sargent commended Amazon and the Haslam administration for negotiating the deal.

“This is very consistent with what the attorney general’s opinion has been,” Sargent said.

Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, the Senate finance chair who had also sought legislation forcing Amazon to collect the tax, was not at Thursday’s event but is recovering from recent hernia surgery, his office said. McNally had suggested a potential two-year grace period on Amazon as a way to resolve the tax issue.

Haslam, noting that Misener is an astrophysicist, said negotiating the deal was “almost like rocket science. It was incredibly difficult.”

Haslam said the Department of Economic and Community Development is working with Amazon on the locations of its future distribution centers. The company recently announced plans to add a plant in Wilson County and is expected to have a larger presence in Middle Tennessee. Haslam said there would be two facilities in the state in addition to what is already in the works, one of those as a “sorting” facility.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, representing the area that has stood to benefit most in terms of jobs, had been critical of efforts to force the tax collections. But McCormick made the same announcement of the new deal in Chattanooga Thursday, emphasizing the additional jobs involved.

McCormick said there was no “arm-twisting” and that Amazon voluntarily went along with the plan. The Chattanooga Times Free Press posted a video of McCormick’s announcement.

Haslam said he didn’t believe the new deal necessarily brings additional jobs to those already planned for Hamilton and Bradley counties, but McCormick said in Chattanooga that the additional jobs would be split between Hamilton, Bradley and Wilson counties, making no mention of new Amazon sites. Haslam said there have been several communities in talks with Amazon.

“This is a significant day for Tennessee,” Haslam told reporters after the announcement. “It addresses an issue about the collection of sales taxes. This isn’t a new tax. This tax was already due. This just is a question of Amazon collecting.”

Roberts characterized the negotiations with Amazon as “challenging but forthright.”

Haslam also put Amazon’s role in online sales tax collections in perspective.

“Of the online retail sales where tax is not being collected Amazon is only about 10 percent of it,” Haslam said, adding that that is why he has called for a national solution. “It’s not just about Amazon.”

William Fox, director of economics at the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research, told a regional legislative conference this summer that Amazon comprises about 5 percent of e-commerce.

California recently reached a compromise with Amazon that gives the company one year before collecting sales taxes. Roberts said the California development helped the Haslam administration’s case but that conversations had progressed substantially by that point.

“Our situation is not the same as California’s,” Haslam said. “They have an existing physical presence that has been there for years. It’s really not an apples and apples situation.”

Haslam said he and Bredesen had talked about Amazon once in the last month or so.

“I just gave him an update on where we were,” Haslam said. “We talk periodically, so it wasn’t necessarily just about this.”

Haslam characterized reaction in the Legislature to the new arrangement as being a “warm reception.”

But the Alliance for Main Street Fairness said the deal will cost Tennessee almost 8,500 jobs.

“How can that possibly be anything but bad policy?” Cohen asked in the formal statement. “Our state government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers. This is the same failed policy we’re getting from Washington, and it’s not something we ought to emulate in Tennessee. Every business should be treated the same.”

The group also raised the issue of Amazon being allowed not to collect the tax given the recent attorney general’s opinion.

“Lawmakers can expect to hear from their constituents, businesses they will put at a huge disadvantage and employers that do pay the sales tax every day,” Cohen said. “It’s time for government to stop meddling in the free market by giving companies like Amazon special treatment.”

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