Amazon Tax Exemption – Legislative Update from Rep. Tom Young

April 26 to May 2, 2011

The House of Representatives is in session for 2011. The House had a very busy week this past week.  I hope that you find this update helpful and informative:

Amazon.Com Legislation:  The biggest legislative news of the week was about and its request for an exemption for five (5) years from collecting sales tax on sales that it makes to someone located in South Carolina even though Amazon will have a physical presence in the state with its proposed distribution facility in Lexington County.  This exemption was to be in addition to other incentives offered to the company by the SC Department of Commerce last December.  An effort to get the exemption passed and on to the Senate took place on Wednesday of last week.  The proposed exemption failed 47-71.  I voted against the exemption (one of the 71) for several reasons including the following:

  • Contrary to published media reports, the exemption was not part of a “promise” or “binding commitment” in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Dept. of Commerce and Amazon.  Rather, the agreement required the Dept. of Commerce to use good faith in attempting to obtain the exemption which it did.  To see the relevant pages of the agreement, go here.
  • Amazon is getting other incentives to come to South Carolina including free land, job development credits, and other statutory tax credits for which it may qualify under existing law.
  • Amazon is doing the exact same thing in Tennessee right now – it is seeking a sales tax exemption in that state on the heels of announcing a distribution center to be located in Tennessee.  The Tennessee legislature is wrestling with this issue too as we speak.
  • Amazon was exempt from collecting sales tax in Texas for a few years and then earlier this year, Texas sent Amazon a bill for over $200 million in sales tax to be paid. Amazon refused to pay and said it would close its distribution facility in Irving, Texas.  No one could assure me that the same scenario would not happen in South Carolina five years from now if the exemption here was approved.
  • Granting Amazon the sales tax exemption would give it a competitive advantage over our local businesses in greater Aiken.  Many of our local businesses sell inventory which can also be purchased from Amazon.  However, our local businesses have to collect the sales tax on those items while Amazon does not.  I did not believe that the totality of the circumstances warranted giving Amazon special treatment over our local businesses.
  • Even if Amazon received the exemption, there was no assurance that, after 5 years, it would not then fight in the courts any effort by our state to collect sales tax.   Amazon is doing that now in North Carolina and other states.
  • Amazon is collecting and paying sales tax in 4 states (Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, and Washington) currently so why could it not do the same in South Carolina?
  • Finally, Governor Haley publicly stated in Aiken last Monday that giving the tax break to Amazon “would be a slap in the face to businesses like Wal Mart and to every small business we have if you give in to one business.”  She also said that her Dept. of Commerce would not bring a proposal like this to the legislature.

In sum, I simply had a lot more reasons to vote against it than to vote for it.  If Amazon really wants to come to South Carolina and be located in this part of the Southeast, then receiving all of the other state incentives and our pro-business environment in South Carolina should outweigh not getting the sales tax exemption.  I welcome your feedback on this issue.

National Day of Prayer:  This Thursday, May 5 is the National Day of Prayer.  The Greater Aiken area will recognize this day with a service at St. John’s United Methodist Church in downtown Aiken at 7:00 p.m. that night.  The public is welcome.  Whether you can go or not, please know that prayer works and our state and nation need our prayers not just on May 5 but every day.

Regulatory Reform Bill:  Currently, state agencies can propose regulations which become state law if no legislative action is taken within a certain number of days.  Last week, the House passed legislation (H. 3226) to require that all regulations be voted on and approved by the General Assembly before they can become law.  It now heads to the Senate.

Fee Hikes Bill:  The House also passed a bill (H. 3051) that requires approval by the General Assembly of any new administrative fees that state agencies impose with a few exceptions such as those required by the federal government.  This bill heads to the Senate.

Flexibility for Schools:  The House passed two bills affecting local school districts.  First, H. 3035 lets school districts set their school calendar to the required 180 days of instruction or the equivalent number of hours.  This will allow some districts to go to a shorter school week if they choose.  Second, H.3663 allows districts to save money, if they choose, by posting a student’s report card online in a secure location versus printing the same student’s report card.

Copper Theft:  To combat the rise of copper theft across the state, the House passed H. 3660 making copper theft a felony on a first offense with jail time.  It also requires copper sellers to have a permit.  If passed, the permits can be obtained free from the County Sheriff.

High School Dropout Bill: The House took this bill up on Wednesday before a small group of opponents delayed it.  Thebill (H. 3164) is on the House calendar for second reading this coming Tuesday.  This bill prohibits possession of a driver’s license until age 18 unless the young person is enrolled in, or has completed, high school.  The bill does have a hardship provision for some limited exceptions including where the young person has to go to work to support himself or his immediate family. Georgia and North Carolina have similar requirements in their state law.  Florida also has a similar law and reported that in a sample pool of 2007-2008 dropouts, 96% reenrolled in school within 90 days of losing their license.

Voter ID Bill:  Last Tuesday, the House approved the Conference Committee version of this bill that includes only requirements to present a valid photo identification to vote.  The Senate is expected to approve the Conference Committee report this week.

Facebook Prohibited for Inmates:  The House passed H. 3527 which restricts the use of Facebook and other social media for inmates.  Several media reports in recent months have documented how inmates have used Facebook and other social media to plan and to encourage the commission of additional crimes.  This bill is aimed to stop that.

State Budget:  The Senate is still working on its version of the State Budget.  I will provide more information when the Senate bill comes back to the House in the next few weeks.

Redistricting:  If you have an opinion on whether Aiken County should remain as part of two Congressional districts or be included in just one district, please let me know by emailing me at  Your input will be provided to the House Judiciary Committee.

Responding to Your Emails:  I am catching up on the large volume of emails that I received in April.  Thank you for your patience.

Helping Local Children with Hunger: With both the Aiken County Schools and Golden Harvest Food Bank, the 2010-2011 Leadership Aiken County class is sponsoring a group project to raise both awareness of and funds for children in Aiken County who are at risk for hunger.  To learn more, go here or call (803) 641-2856.

Small Business Development Work Shop:  The Aiken Small Business Development Center is offering a FREE tax work shop for prospective and new small business owners. The workshop will be held from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Wednesday, May 4, in the Penland Admin Building Conference Room 110 at USC Aiken.  For more information on registration, etc., please see here.

Report Waste, Fraud and Abuse in State Government: To report waste, fraud and abuse in state government, you can call: 1-855-SC-FRAUD.

Roll Call Voting: There is a new link available to keep up with all the roll call votes in the S.C. House.  That link can be accessed at either my website at or at the website.

Facebook: I have a Facebook page for Representative Tom Young. Please “like” the page to receive updates during the week from me on Facebook.

Tom Young’s Website: My updated website can be reached at There are links to a variety of constituent services; the status of sponsored bills; and roll call votes. Please add my web site as a bookmark on your computer.

State House Tours:  Tours are available for the S.C. State House by calling (803) 734-2430.  If you schedule your tour on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between now and early June, please let me know so I can make every effort to see you.

Email Updates:  If you know of people in or around District 81 who do not receive my updates but they would like to, please email their names and email addresses to me.

Road Issues:  If you see a road problem, call the SCDOT at 641-7665 or Aiken County at 642-1532 to report the problem.  If you do not get a prompt response, please let me know at or call me. Generally, most paved roads in the County are maintained by SCDOT and are identified on the road sign poles by a small black and white sign listing the road number, such as S-2-1669. Most unpaved roads in the County are maintained by the County.

Thank you for the opportunity and the honor to represent you.  Please let me know if I can help you in any way or if you have questions about these or other issues. Your feedback is meaningful and appreciated.


Tom Young
649-0000 (o)
215-3631 (cell)

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