Amazon tax break deal approved by S.C. state Senate

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A deal reached early today paves the way for online retailer Amazon to open a distribution center employing 2,000 people.

The state Senate agreed shortly after midnight to give the company a sales tax exemption it wants for the project, ending a two-day talkathon that opponents launched to stall the measure.

“We’ve got a deal,” Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, announced after resistance ended when all sides agreed that Amazon will send customers in South Carolina notices that sales tax is owed on purchases.

It was quickly approved on a unanimous voice vote.

Amazon’s $125 million project near Cayce would be one of the largest recent developments in the Midlands.

The agreement moves the proposal to the verge of final legislative approval. The plan approved in the Senate will need to go back to the House, which approved the deal last week. But House leaders promise to accept changes that Amazon allies have made in the measure.

Senate resistance came from roughly a dozen conservative Republicans from the Upstate and Lowcountry who regard the break as a sweetheart deal, unfair to other retailers.

Amazon is seeking a five-year exemption from collecting sales taxes on purchases it handles for South Carolina residents. Other retailers say that would put them at a disadvantage, because shoppers perceive untaxed merchandise as cheaper.

Buyers of online merchandise are supposed to pay taxes themselves but seldom do, state revenue officials say.

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