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Are you a tax cheat if you shop online tax-free?

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  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    May 15, 2013 12:46 p.m.

    What about illegal is it that people don't understand? Deport illegal buyers to the states they bought from if they refuse to accept the rule of law.

  • Paul in MD Montgomery Village, MD
    May 8, 2013 8:41 a.m.

    @CB, Social Security isn't a savings account, and it isn't a pension. It's essentially an insurance policy against living long enough to not be able to work. When it was enacted, the average life expectancy was less than 65, so just over half of the people paying into it were not expected to live long enough to draw from it.

  • Badger55 Nibley, Ut
    May 7, 2013 2:18 p.m.

    Some of the people who commented on this article need to check out the SCOTUS ruling on Quill Corp. v. North Dakota. It is unconstitutional for a state to charge a use tax on online purchases when the physical location of the business is located in a different state. Unfortunately, they also ruled that it can be changed with legislation from congress. This will be a nightmare for online retailers as well as the 50 states trying to sift through all the taxes from everyone in the Country. Sounds like a prime opportunity to let more revenue slip through the governmental cracks. They are more like crevasses these days.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    May 6, 2013 6:23 p.m.

    @TheRock

    I feel your pain. Because I am underemployed, I decided to start a small business peddling my mother's homemade bread. That's right. I sell homemade bread. You would not believe the hoops I have to jump through just so I can sell homemade bread. Not multiple products to people in multiple states. Homemade bread to my neighbors. Well, my one-employee bread company doesn't have an accounting department either. So when the Utah State Tax Commission sends nasty letters saying I didn't file even if I did, and saying that I owe money, even if I don't, I can't just pass them on to the CFO and say 'here, take care of this.' I have to take care of it. And I don't even know how! And I sell ONE product! To people in my neighborhood! It's really no wonder to me why this economy is so horrible and why so many people are underemployed (like me) or unemployed altogether. I can't even imagine what it's like to manage a real business. There is certainly no incentive in this environment for me to ever become one.

  • kattawn ,
    May 6, 2013 12:55 p.m.

    When I buy from Amazon, QVC, HSN, etc., (the large retailers) I am paying taxes. However, this should not apply when I buy a book from somebody on Ebay because I just want a used copy that they want to get rid of. Not sure how this will apply to those very small sellers yet.

  • lost in DC West Jordan, UT
    May 6, 2013 12:22 p.m.

    I cannot figure out the DN censor sometimes.

    I posted that the commerce clause says the United States Congress shall have power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Congress, not the states.

    I also reiterated what the Rock said:
    Article 1 section 9 of the Constitution states: "No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State."

    And concluded that Use taxes are therefore unconstitutional.

    For some reason the DN decided my comment did not meet their criteria.

    I also said I thought the Senate should not require on-line retailers to have to collect for every political subdivision, just for states. Maybe that was what the DN found objectionable??

  • CB Salt Lake City, UT
    May 6, 2013 11:17 a.m.

    This is a laughable charge. Most anything you buy has already been taxed numerous times.
    My husband paid SS for 45 years. He paid taxes on that money extracted. Clinton comes along
    and decides that those now collecting on that already taxed money, should be taxed again.
    My mother worked many years, paying SS, but died before she was able to collect one cent of it.
    Did the family receive those uncollected funds, hardly.
    Government, national and state, are like the doctors of old who used leeches to extract blood
    from the patient as a cure. Thrust that these agencies will use any means to extract your money
    out of your pocket. Taxes are the live blood of politician to keep and maintain their positions and climb to something better.

  • justamacguy Manti, UT
    May 6, 2013 11:09 a.m.

    I feel it is my duty to do what I can to make life as comfortable for my family as I possibly can. As for have to pay for roads, firefighters, libraries, parks, recreation, and other local services, I have done that with my vehicle taxes, income taxes and property taxes. If the government wasn't giving that money away in senseless entitlements maybe we wouldn't even need a sales tax. I can purchase out of China and have my goods here in a week with no sales tax too. If this internet tax goes through I can see internet business moving off-shore to evade it. I would. But then, maybe we need more $25 million in taxpayer funding vacant parking garages.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 6, 2013 8:29 a.m.

    How can you cheat a thief?

  • papi_chulo Ogden, UT
    May 6, 2013 8:23 a.m.

    Well, since the Federal Government sees the need to furlough me and not pay me for those days I am off, I guess that a few dollars here and there in sales tax won't make a difference whether I pay or not.

  • Rational Salt Lake City, UT
    May 6, 2013 8:09 a.m.

    One more way for Government to get its hands in my pants pocket.

    Government ISN'T efficient.

    Government workers ARE overpaid -- as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago when people traded job security for lower wages and benefits. Now they get security, high wages, they are less competent than the average worker, and there are three of them for every ONE it should take to do a job. If you don't believe that, you are either a government worker or relative.

  • Mugabe ACWORTH, GA
    May 6, 2013 6:58 a.m.

    For those who are calling others "cheaters," because they refuse to pay an online tax, I would ask: Do you lock your doors when you leave home? Do you lock your car to protect it from thieves? Do you carry a gun to prevent those who would rob you from doing so?

    If you answered yes to anyone of the above questions, then, you are a cheat for taking measures to protect what you have worked and earned.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    May 6, 2013 6:40 a.m.

    Most people have no idea what a burden it is to require an online merchant to pay sales taxes.

    I live in Washington State. I have to file my sales taxes quarterly and it takes me about four hours to complete the forms. I do not have an accounting department. I am all by my "onesies".

    Collecting sales taxes and filing tax forms in all 50 states takes that four hour process and makes it a 200 hour process (five weeks for those of you in Rio Linda). So I would have to spend five weeks out of every nine weeks just doing my sales taxes.

    Tax law is not uniform. Some states charge sales taxes on everything, others exempt food, others exempt clothes. Some that exempt food call Twinkies (when they existed) candy and taxed them. The definitions are myriad. There is no way a small entity can know if they are even in compliance with the law.

    The courts have historically ruled that requiring merchants to collect sales taxes on interstate commerce places an unreasonable burden on these businesses. The courts were right.

  • Paul in MD Montgomery Village, MD
    May 6, 2013 6:36 a.m.

    @frogguy, when a company in California collects a sales tax for an item you, in Utah, purchase online, California isn't taxing that sale, Utah is. If California were taxing the sale, the accounting nightmare everyone is complaining about wouldn't be a problem at all - the vendor would charge the local sales tax rate and pay all the sales taxes to the agency collecting taxes in their area.

    But that's not the case. This law would require each vendor to calculate the sales tax for the area you live in, and pay the state you live in the taxes they are charging.

    @Mike Richards, the states aren't charging the companies for services, they are charging you. The reason they want online companies to collect the taxes (like every brick and mortar company does) is because almost every online customer is ignoring the law and not paying sales taxes. If all of us were more honest, this wouldn't be an issue.

    It's like speed cameras (where they have them). If people didn't speed, the cameras would disappear.

  • Ricardo Carvalho Provo, UT
    May 6, 2013 6:01 a.m.

    To srw, I agree with most of your post but do consider tax evasion to be comparable to traffic violations. If I spend some $40,000 per year on purchases locally but buy maybe $1,000 of goods online from out of state vendors, one could argue that this is hardly material in my overall tax picture. In this way, it is a lot like going slightly over the speed limit. On the other hand, if I spend $40,000 per year in online purchases but do not pay use tax, that is material just as if I were doing 50 mph in a 25 mph zone and putting lives at risk.

  • E & EE Ann arbor, MI
    May 6, 2013 5:27 a.m.

    @B Here's a better idea: how about government just figures out how to do a good job with the money already given to it before we decide to give it more?

  • B Centerville, UT
    May 5, 2013 10:51 p.m.

    @srw

    "But if you report on your state income tax return that you owe zero use tax when you actually do owe some (e.g., you made a typical online purchase without paying sales tax), wouldn't you consider that cheating?"

    The point is that when I buy from a retailer in California, Utah sales tax has nothing to do with it. So if California wants to go after the taxes from that company, they are more than welcome to. It's not my job to pay California sales tax if I am at my computer in Utah. I don't know what California sales tax even is.

    Here is an idea though. Since there are too many state taxes to try to keep track of, why not say that all online purchases are taxed at a certain (low, ) percentage. The state gets a cut, the business owner doesn't take a huge hit trying to figure out what to pay, and the buyer already has the tax built into the price of what he's buying.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 5, 2013 9:40 p.m.

    I believe the tax is on the seller actually not the buyer but is passed on to the seller. So the answer I believe is No. It is the responsibility of the seller to pay the tax. For example, I often frequent a fast food place that charges an even amount for all purchases. It is wonderful. If something on the menu says it's a dollar, it's a dollar not a dollar and seven cents. I don't think the business is not paying the tax but has made the tax as part of the price and made everything come out even for its customer. (What a cool concept!). I don't throw extra money in the dish to pay my tax as it is part of the price. The seller of the product on-line can figure out how do the same thing in what it charges, the burden should not, and I believe is not, on the purchaser of the said product but the other way around.

  • Vegas POV Las Vegas, NV
    May 5, 2013 9:40 p.m.

    So Nevada doesn't have sales tax on food (groceries). If a person from West Wendover goes to Wendover to buy food, should the state of Utah have border patrol to assure that s/he paid their Utah sales tax and then go harass the store owners for not collecting the state taxes? If I, being from Nevada, shop for food (groceries) in Utah should I be required to pay sales tax on the food, when I don't have to in my own state?

    Should all Evanston, Wyoming gas stations be required to investigate the destination of all fuel purchasing customers to assure that the fuel taxes for the roads used are appropriately assigned. What of the person headed to Montpelier Idaho from Evanston. Should the taxes be apportioned based on perceived miles per gallon of a vehicle to assure that Utah and Idaho get's their fair share.

  • dave4197 Redding, CA
    May 5, 2013 9:11 p.m.

    Of course I don't consider myself a tax cheat, because I'm not going to be the gov't's tax collector, that's why.

    Small (and large) internet businesses shouldn't whine about the coming sales tax on internet purchases. The next week after this law passes there will be competitive applications for your home and business computer. Certainly collecting sales tax on internet purchases will now be more complex, but this slightly underground business model will now become main street and most of all fair.

    So sorry I'll now have to pay sales tax on my internet purchases. What? 7% 8% oh my gosh I can afford that easily. Small cost for fairness among retailers.

    Many on line stores have products just not available in brick and mortar stores, and on line prices are at least competitive if not lower. I'll continue shopping on line without missing a beat.

  • BYR Woods Cross, UT
    May 5, 2013 9:06 p.m.

    Are you a tax cheat if you shop online tax-free? Not when a tax is not mandated by law. Until that happens, to whom does the buyer pay the tax and how much? Silly question.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    May 5, 2013 9:03 p.m.

    I've had it added to an on-line purchase and not had it added.

    Consider this: When you shop at a local brick-and-mortar business do you ask: "Did you make sure and add sales tax to my purchase price?" Of course not. Local retailers are complaining they are suffering a disadvantage because of the taxes not being assessed on purchases. Well, shipping is usually assessed for on-line purchases or the price is higher if the shipping is included. So much for the perceived "disadvantage."

    What's really at play here is government thinks they need more money. What they need is to figure a way to make it simple to remit and collect. I remember a Christmas Tree Lot in West Jordan that had a sign stating "TREES: $25 - No Sales Tax" and after the City talked with them their sign was changed to say "Tax Included."

    So get off the sanctimonious "you're a tax cheat" syndrome and get a system that makes it as easy as a local merchant to assess, collect and remit. Good Luck with that! No moaning allowed, either, goverment!!! The mess is your own making.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    May 5, 2013 7:44 p.m.

    I cannot believe all of the defenders of the tax collectors. We truly must be a freeloader society after all. Otherwise there wouldn't be so many to so quickly chime in on the welfare state's behalf. What a disgrace! When is that free city opening up in Honduras? Or what about those floating sea cities? I am so over all of you freeloaders nickeling and diming me for more tax money. It's like any excuse you can come up with to take more of my money, you are all over it. You're like the mob with your hands out. I am perfectly fine with paying for my share of the roads, fire, police, etc. Those kinds of things shouldn't require that we go $16 trillion in debt with $1.5 trillion of deficits every year thereafter. You disgust me with your corruption and incompetence and downright mismanagement. I hope this scam passes. Who knows. The quicker you pass more dumb ripoffs, the quicker you might get thrown out of office. Until then, I hope you enjoy every penny you have stolen from me while I'm struggling to pay my own bills. Have a nice day!

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    May 5, 2013 7:36 p.m.

    C'mon people. The law of the land is negotiable these days.
    Sure, I buy ink and toner on-line and don't pay tax. But I use it to print the ward bulletin and hand-outs for my class and my wife prints reams of paper for her Stake YW calling.
    And you wouldn't deny my poor kids the printing of their school assignments, would you?
    Let's be compassionate here. How about a little tax amnesty for good people who are only trying to do what is right?
    We need a Utah Compact for taxes.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    May 5, 2013 7:12 p.m.

    A1994 said, "The answer is clearly no. If anything, the businesses have an obligation to build it into the price and pay the tax. I have to laugh at those who are so set on 'rules' that they would call someone a tax cheat because they purchased something online."

    I repeat, there is nothing wrong with purchasing something online, and no one has suggested otherwise. But if you report on your state income tax return that you owe zero use tax when you actually do owe some (e.g., you made a typical online purchase without paying sales tax), wouldn't you consider that cheating? That's the way it is.

    How it *should* be is another question. And my whole point is that the current situation is unacceptable, and businesses should be required to collect the tax, including online sellers.

    To RG, your suggestion not to be holier than thou is a good one. But I have an hard time considering tax evasion to be comparable to traffic violations.

  • Demisana South Jordan, UT
    May 5, 2013 7:01 p.m.

    For those who think it's a no-brainer, business should of course have to collect and remit this, obviously you've never done accounting, particularly in a small firm. It's not just 50 states, it's thousands of jurisdictions within those states. Sales tax is collected quarterly by some jurisdications, quarterly by others, and annually by a few. Every one of those is another tax return. You really think some mom and pop business $100,000 in sales can afford the man hours to prepare all those returns? Even if it's a million dollar business, you've got maybe three people doing all the accounting - and now you need a 4th.

    The ONLY way this could be workable, is if you do one annual return to a single agency, listing total sales by state. You do a million dollars, you pay 7% on it (or whatever the uniform rate is), and the clearing house agency then remits to each state their share. Otherwise you've got a nightmare.

    Besides, since when does any state have the power to tax people outside their borders?

  • I know it. I Live it. I Love it. Salt Lake City, UT
    May 5, 2013 6:50 p.m.

    If Harmon's or Walmart stopped adding taxes to purchases, would the state not do something about it?

    Why is it any different for Amazon or Ebay?

    Every state has different laws and a purchaser cannot reasonably be expected to keep track of all possible variables. Companies manage to do this just fine on their own; so why not with taxes? Then again, why do we have to tax everything? Does every last aspect of our trading require taxation? I would hope people remember history and when 'too much taxing' has lead to problems.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    May 5, 2013 6:51 p.m.

    Setting the record straight:

    "As a result, many online sales are essentially tax-free, giving Internet retailers an advantage over brick-and-mortar stores."

    No, local stores have a significant advantage over online retailers. When you buy online you have to pay for shipping and handling. You have to wait for the product. You can't try it on, look at it, hold it, etc. before you buy. If you have to return the product you have to pay shipping to send it back. Sales tax is usually about the same as shipping and handling expenses.

    No you are not a tax cheat:

    Article 1 section 9 of the Constitution states: "No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State."

    When I buy from another state they are exporting it to me. Charging a tax, sales tax or use tax on such a transaction is unconstitutional. The states are the tax cheats by attempting to charge such a tax.

  • Guam_Bomb BARRIGADA, GU
    May 5, 2013 6:36 p.m.

    The title to this article is ridiculous and demonstrates a real lack of critical thinking! The answer is an obvious no. The law is clear that the businesses selling the products are responsible for collecting and reporting sales tax.

  • xscribe Colorado Springs, CO
    May 5, 2013 6:29 p.m.

    Riverton Cougar: When have we not had a corrupt federal government?

  • RG Buena Vista, VA
    May 5, 2013 6:04 p.m.

    I'm not arguing with any of the points of view so far presented, but here is my question to all those who claim that the tax should be paid because it is "the law of the land": Do you ever drive 56MPH in a 55MPH zone? Do you ever not completely, absolutely stop at a stop sign? Have you ever driven without a seatbelt because you are using your street only so you can turn your car around to face the other direction in your driveway? Etc. I'm only saying let's not be "holier than thou."

  • A1994 Centerville, UT
    May 5, 2013 6:03 p.m.

    The answer is clearly no. If anything, the businesses have an obligation to build it into the price and pay the tax. I have to laugh at those who are so set on 'rules' that they would call someone a tax cheat because they purchased something online.

    @Bloodhound

    I have no problem with paying taxes for 'roads, firefighters, libraries, parks, recreation, and other local services.' I DO have a problem paying taxes for idiotic 'green energy' companies and the like. I have a huge problem with my tax dollars going to crony capitalism. We have a government who isn't responsible with the dollars it gets. Why would we send anymore without demanding that they use money wisely? And you may say this is for state governments. Well, go research the 'Taj Mahal Sewer System' in Alabama. This is just one example of how out of touch State AND Federal government is.

  • Riverton Cougar Riverton, UT
    May 5, 2013 5:57 p.m.

    But it's ok, since apparently you can be a tax cheat and still be a member of Obama's cabinet. In fact, it might improve your resume for a spot in Obama's cabinet.

    But even though the government can shirk their duties in enforcing some laws (such as immigration), they will not shirk away from their duty of taking your money away!

    I'm not saying we shouldn't pay taxes, I'm just saying that the current federal government is corrupt.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    May 5, 2013 5:53 p.m.

    There are sides to this question. The State requires that you report purchases made "tax free" and pay a "use tax"; however the State has provided no services to those companies and is therefore requiring us to pay for services not rendered.

    Maybe the question we should be asking is why any government thinks it can tax us for services not rendered.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    May 5, 2013 4:36 p.m.

    frogguy said, "Am I a tax cheat for shopping online? NO! It's legal to shop online, and I'm obeying all the tax laws involving online commerce. I'm paying the legal tax rate. Sometimes it's zero and sometimes it's the full Utah sales tax rate, if that retailer has nexus in Utah."

    Of course you're not a tax cheat for shopping online. You're only a tax cheat if you don't pay use tax when required. The legal use-tax rate (for most purchases) is not zero, regardless of whether the retailer has a presence in Utah.

  • wer South Jordan, UT
    May 5, 2013 4:24 p.m.

    It's not hard to find the required tax code in Utah. Using Turbotax, it just pops up at the proper place.

    Ignorance is no excuse.

  • frogguy PROVO, UT
    May 5, 2013 3:20 p.m.

    Why is it always the citizen's fault when the government wants more of our money? Am I a tax cheat for shopping online? NO! It's legal to shop online, and I'm obeying all the tax laws involving online commerce. I'm paying the legal tax rate. Sometimes it's zero and sometimes it's the full Utah sales tax rate, if that retailer has nexus in Utah. Utah already has a use tax for purchases made outside of its taxing authority, which is unbelievable in the first place, but it's there and it covers untaxed online purchases. Taxing online purchases from retailers outside of a state's taxing authority is outside the parameters established by the concepts in the US Constitution, even though it's not covered specifically. If Ohio or California or Florida is given the right to tax my online purchases, even if they forward that tax to Utah, is taxation without representation. It should be declared unconstitutional. States do not have the RIGHT to tax. We have merely given them the authority to tax. Rights belong to the people.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    May 5, 2013 3:01 p.m.

    Larry said, "No one is a tax cheat who takes advantage of what the tax code allows."
    The Utah tax code requires payment of use tax on most mail order/internet purchases. It doesn't allow nonpayment.

    "You can't blame the users for not paying the tax."
    Although it is a pain to keep track of one's purchases, paying the use tax is required by law, so I think I can "blame" those who don't pay.

    "As far as use taxes, states do not make it clear that it must be paid, and provide no penalties for not paying it."
    It's right there on the Utah income tax form, and it's explained in detail in the instructions. And where did you get the idea that there are no penalties for not paying use tax?

    "It shouldn't be up to the individual to recall where taxes were paid and where they were not."
    I agree with you on this point. We already waste a ridiculous amount of time and money calculating our taxes and filling out forms. Taxes should be collected at the time of sale.

  • Larry Chandler CEDAR CITY, UT
    May 5, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    No one is a tax cheat who takes advantage of what the tax code allows. Perhaps the code needs to be rewritten, as it does seem to penalize local businesses who by law must charge the tax. You can't blame the users for not paying the tax.

    As far as use taxes, states do not make it clear that it must be paid, and provide no penalties for not paying it. It shouldn't be up to the individual to recall where taxes were paid and where they were not.

    If the states insist on people paying use taxes, it has to provide a mechanism for this, as wage income and freelance income does with W-2 and 1099 forms.

  • Kralon HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA
    May 5, 2013 11:23 a.m.

    "Why would I pay it to a government I no longer trust?"

    Because not paying tax will do nothing to fix the problems in government. And much of government does work well for the benefit of all.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    May 5, 2013 9:56 a.m.

    Yes, if you haven't been paying use tax with your state income tax each year, then you are a tax cheat.

    Say asked, "Why would I pay it to a government I no longer trust?"
    Answer: Because it's the law, not a request from the government.

    The current situation is untenable. Either the use tax needs to be eliminated or it needs to be collected uniformly. If that would make it too much trouble to do business in all 50 states, then don't do business.

  • wer South Jordan, UT
    May 5, 2013 9:19 a.m.

    To answer the question posed by the title, it is 'YES!'.

    Especially, for those who believe in sustaining the law of the land.

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    May 5, 2013 9:10 a.m.

    The social contract with government is broken.
    Congress has an approval rating in single digits.
    Government is filled with high wages, bloated pensions, wasted revenue and out-of-control fraud on a massive scale. (Examples: Pigford and ITIN tax refunds.)
    Internet sales tax is a drop in the bucket.
    Why would I pay it to a government I no longer trust?

  • Bloodhound Provo, UT
    May 5, 2013 8:41 a.m.

    If you want roads, firefighters, libraries, parks, recreation, and other local services, you should pay be willing to pay local/online sales taxes. People seem to want services without paying taxes to provide those services. It doesn't work.