The move is an about-face for Amazon. After the company refused to cooperate in September, the state of Massachusetts filed a court order forcing Amazon to turn over the data by mid-October. It wasn't clear if Amazon would relent or fight the court until now. (Amazon declined to comment, and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue didn't return a request for comment.)
Peterson noted that when someone uses language like "valid and binding legal demand" and agrees to comply, it typically means its lawyers have believe they're likely to lose in court.
But Paul Rafelson, a law professor at Pace University and a former tax counsel at GE, had a more nuanced view of the incident.
He says, given how common these requests are, it was strange to see Amazon react so aggressively against turning over the data. Instead, he thinks Amazon's resistance was likely a "pretend fight" put on to mitigate its liability against any seller that might decide to sue them over failing to help them be more tax compliant. Because Amazon currently takes a hands-off approach to third party sales tax collection, the company would be able to use this as one evidence of "sticking up for the sellers," he said.
And the situation only gets trickier as Boston is in the running for a bid to win Amazon's second headquarters. Cities are offering all kinds of tax incentives to get Amazon's HQ2, which would create 50,000 new jobs and attract over $5 billion in investments.
"This is a bit of a dog and pony show," Rafelson said. "This is such a basic request that there's no reason why Amazon wouldn't turn it over. It's just making kind of a big public show."