PHOENIX - The issue of whether Amazon.com should be required to collect tax on online sales to Arizonans isn't going away.
State legislators during their 2012 regular session considered, but ultimately shelved, proposals to force the Seattle-based online retailer to collect tax on its sales in Arizona.
But the issue is expected to resurface publicly in coming months when a newly appointed state task force considers making recommendations for legislative action on improving Arizona's sales-tax system.
Gov. Jan Brewer didn't specify online purchases as a topic for the task force to consider, but a senior Brewer aide who will lead the panel said the issue will be taken up under its charge to recommend ways to simplify the state's sales-tax system.
"We're likely to dedicate some significant time and resources to it," said Michael Hunter, Brewer's tax policy adviser and her chief legislative lobbyist.
Because of the simplification mandate and brick-and-mortar retailers' complaints about no-tax competition from Amazon, "it's going to have to come up," agreed Kevin McCarthy, a task force member and head of a business-backed taxpayer advocacy group.
Meanwhile, the state apparently still has a $53 million tax assessment pending against the online retailer in confidential proceedings.
Arizonans are legally supposed to pay sales tax on purchases of goods bought from retailers that don't collect tax, but few do.
Amazon contends it doesn't have to collect sales tax from Arizonans because it doesn't have a "physical presence," such as stores, in the state. The company contends its so-called "fulfillment centers" - distribution warehouses that ship goods to customers - don't count because they're owned by a subsidiary.
Michelle Ahlmer, Arizona Retailers Association executive director, said her group will push the task force to recommend that legislators pass a law next year requiring Amazon to collect sales tax by July 2013 at the latest.
"We don't want a quick glossing over," Ahlmer said. "There's no way we can let this stay the way it is."
It's too early to discuss what the task force might recommend, Hunter said.