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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, June 25, 2010

Law Student Sues North Carolina, Fears She Won't Get a Job if Her Online Purchase of Obama Zombies Is Disclosed in Sales Tax Dispute

National Law Journal, ACLU Intervenes in Privacy Dispute Between Amazon and State Tax Collector, by Karen Sloan:

Two lawyers and a law student were among seven plaintiffs who filed suit on Wednesday to block the North Carolina Department of Revenue from collecting detailed information about purchases state residents made through online retailer Inc. ...

The ACLU's complaint alleges that the sales information the state has requested infringed the privacy of buyers by disclosing their names and detailed information about what they purchased.

Amazon has turned over product codes of purchased items to the state for auditing purposes, but has resisted turning over customer names and addresses.

Among the anonymous plaintiffs is the general counsel of a global company who purchased "books with overt leanings," including Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country and Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, according to the complaint. Other plaintiffs include a retired lawyer and a law student who hopes to work in the public sector. The student fears her ability to get a job in legislative or public policy will be hindered if her Amazon purchases are made public. She has purchased Jason Materra's Obama Zombies: How The Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation and Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s Who Killed The Constitution? The Federal Government vs. American Liberty From World War I to Barack Obama.

"What a person chooses to purchase on Amazon reveals personal, private and profoundly intimate information about that person's life and identity," the complaint reads. "For example, an individual's purchase history can provide details about his or her political or religious beliefs, organizations or groups he or she associates with, who his or her friends or family are, and whether he or she has any medical, psychological or family problems."

Sales tax revenue is at the heart of the larger dispute, with North Carolina expected to lose nearly $162 million in sales tax revenue from online purchases, according to a University of Tennessee estimate. Amazon doesn't collect the state's 5.75% sales tax because the company doesn't have warehouses or offices in North Carolina. The responsibility to pay the tax lies with the buyer.

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Coming from the northwest, she is quite right. You'll gladly be fired or not hired based on your political beliefs.
By purchasing a conservative text, she has committed "ThoughtCrime".
That aside, NC and other states don't have a "sales tax" problem; they have a "use tax" problem.

Posted by: EvilDave | Jun 25, 2010 11:09:21 AM

Yup on both counts by EvilDave (although I wouldn't go as far as "ThoughtCrime"). 3 topics to always avoid in working relationships: politics, religion, and spouses.

I fail to see why NC would need anything but raw numbers unless the point is to go after individual tax payers. People aren't doing anything illegal by buying online -- this is NC's collection problem. The mechanism needs to be changed, not private business records made public.

Posted by: Amy | Jun 25, 2010 3:07:12 PM

I own a Sarah Palin cutout and I don't care who knows about it.

Posted by: mike livingston | Jun 25, 2010 3:21:14 PM

If she thinks that Thomas E. Woods, Jr.'s (and my) _Who Killed the Constitution?_ is a partisan book, she hasn't read it yet. (The hardcover edition featured GWB in the subtitle.)

Posted by: Kevin Gutzman | Jun 26, 2010 6:49:36 AM