Utah discloses previously confidential contract with Amazon

Boilerplate agreement says company has no liability for past tax collections, not much else.

FILE - In this June 18, 2014 file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks on stage for the launch of the new Amazon Fire Phone, in Seattle. Amazon launched on the web twenty years ago on July 16, 1995. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Amazon voluntary collection agreement with Utah by The Salt Lake Tribune on Scribd

The Utah Tax Commission on Friday complied with the order of the State Records Committee and publicly disclosed a previously confidential agreement between the state and Amazon under which the online retailer began collecting sales tax on Utahns' purchases Jan. 1.

There isn't much to see.

The agreement is a boilerplate contract that doesn't refer to any incentive for the retail giant to begin tax collections. It previously had not done so, in line with a decades-old Supreme Court ruling that a state can't force companies to collect taxes unless they have a physical presence within the state's jurisdiction.

Utah's agreement does spell out that Amazon has no liability for past tax collections and assures that the state will claim no authority to audit it for previous years.

"There's not a lot in it," agreed Tax Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts. "My understanding is it is pretty much a boilerplate."

The Tax Commission has repeatedly said that the only financial incentive for Amazon is the same 1.31 percent handling fee that every large retailer gets to keep for collecting Utah state and local sales taxes.

That information does not appear in the contract disclosed Friday.

The only things redacted from the agreement were the company's federal tax number and the signature of the Amazon official who signed the document, Roberts said.

He added that there were other related documents that the Records Committee reviewed in private and determined were properly labeled as confidential.

Connor Boyack, head of the Libertas Institute, which had appealed the Tax Commission's denial of its open-records request for the contract, said he wasn't surprised at the dearth of revealing information in the document.

Still he wonders about Amazon's motivation to voluntarily begin collecting taxes. "We've been curious about that and the agreement is silent about that," Boyack said.

"The question is if they're not legally bound, why is Amazon making these agreements with every state? That question remains unanswered."