Amazon steps up to pay N.C. sales tax

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It’s too late for Christmas, but Internet giant Amazon will deliver a nicely wrapped package next month anyway – to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in North Carolina.

Amazon will add North Carolina to a small list of states in which it collects and pays sales taxes. That’s good news for all of us, but particularly to merchants who operate stores, pay sales taxes and support the communities in which they live.

The giant retailer’s decision will affect North Carolina in at least two important ways.

First, the amount of revenue that will begin to flow into state coffers is significant. Some analysts say it could be as much as $190 million a year.

But of even more importance to traditional retail stores in Rocky Mount and elsewhere, the move will help level the playing field between Internet giants and physical stores.

For years, major appliance retailers have complained that too many customers browse through their showrooms, ask questions of their sales people, then order the items they like from a website that charges no sales tax.

Amazon’s move probably won’t result in a halt to that practice altogether. But analysts have estimated that Amazon generates more sales than the next 12 online Internet retailers combined, so the move is significant.

Sales tax helps pay for schools, law enforcement, social services and other giant expenses.

The money generated by Amazon will be a welcome boon to state government – and to hard-working neighbors whose stores add to our quality of life.