Mayors urge Gov. Deval Patrick to get Amazon to charge state sales tax in time for holiday retail season

A group of Massachusetts mayors, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston, has sent a letter to Governor Deval Patrick urging him to “move aggressively” to force giant online retailer Amazon.com into compliance with Massachusetts sales tax laws before the holiday shopping season, the Massachusetts Main Street Fairness Coalition said Wednesday.

On its website, the coalition describes itself as a “grassroots organization made up of retailers, local elected officials, trade and business associations, and individuals that want a sales tax system that treats all businesses the same.”

The coalition included a copy of the mayors’ letter in its press release.

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The letter to Patrick stated in part: “Every morning, when a Massachusetts retail business opens, he or she starts at a 6.25 percent price disadvantage to online giants like Amazon.com. Because of a loophole created by a US Federal Court decision two decades ago, online retailers are not required to collect sales tax due on most online purchases unless they have a physical presence in a state, giving them a huge advantage over traditional ‘Main Street’ businesses, who are struggling to keep their businesses open in a very tough economy.”

According to the coalition, Amazon has enough of a physical presence in Massachusetts that it should be collecting sales taxes.

A Globe story in June noted that requiring Amazon to pay Massachusetts sales taxes could generate as much as $45 million in annual revenue to the state.

An attempt to reach Amazon was not immediately successful.

Texas, Nevada, New Jersey recently announced that Amazon will begin collecting state sales tax after locating operations in those states, the coalition’s press release noted. Just this month, the release added, Amazon began to collect state sales tax in both California and Pennsylvania as a result of similar action by leaders in those states.

The effort to write a letter to Patrick was led by Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who is also co-chair of the Massachusetts Main Street Fairness Coalition.

Mayors from Braintree, Malden, Peabody, Easthampton, Methuen, and Revere also signed the letter, the coalition said.

In their letter, the mayors said they were prompted to act because “Main Street businesses are the lifeblood of our communities.”