Apr 28 2011

Illinois Tries to Squeeze the Turnip a Little More

I’ve never really tried to make much money from this blog or my other sites. I threw a simple ad unit or two on them and figured maybe a few cents would trickle in, but I don’t get enough traffic to amount to anything significant. Most ad networks don’t pay you until you make at least $10, and I haven’t gotten any checks yet, so you get the picture.


Squeeze it really hard!

But I did go to some trouble on my Latin Lessons site, picking out some Latin textbooks and related novels that I like, and putting up Amazon.com affiliate ads for them with my recommendations. If someone bought one, I’d get a few cents. Seems reasonable; maybe someday it’d even pay for the annual $10 domain renewal.

However, Illinois legislators passed a law this spring that requires online retailers to collect sales tax not just if they have a physical presence in the state — which has always been the case — but also if they have any affiliates in the state. So Amazon dropped all its Illinois-based affiliates like me, rather than go to the hassle of collecting sales tax for all the people like me who are dealing in such small numbers anyway. The overhead just doesn’t make it worthwhile to mess with it.

The politicians claim they’ve been “losing” 150 million dollars a year on uncollected taxes on Internet sales. Never mind that only a politician could claim to lose something he never had. Never mind that any online business that makes a serious amount as an Amazon affiliate will simply relocate to a different state — easy enough to do in the virtual world.¬†Never mind that $150M is a drop in the bucket compared to the 150 billion dollars in debt these nitwits have saddled us with here in Illinois (another $13 billion to be added this year). To put it in normal-people numbers, this is like if I owed $5000 on my house, and the bank was about to foreclose, so I hit you over the head and take $5 out of your wallet. My problem still exists, but now your head hurts.

So this will hassle small-time website owners like me, drive business out of the state, and fail to increase tax revenues significantly. Well done, guys. Keep squeezing that turnip; you’ll get some blood any day now. Don’t address the huge¬†billion-dollar spending programs that are driving us into debt; just keep looking for ways to nickel-and-dime a few millions out of the shrinking number of workers to keep the checks coming to state employees and clients a little longer.

In the meantime, I’ll be wasting a few hours unproductively, taking those now-worthless affiliate ads down. I could switch them to a different retailer that’s willing to collect the taxes (places like Barnes & Noble already collected sales taxes, since they have physical presences in every state), but I don’t know if it’s worth the trouble. Illinois really doesn’t want me making money that way, so I guess I won’t.

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