Comments about ‘Are you a tax cheat if you shop online tax-free?’

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Published: Sunday, May 5 2013 8:31 a.m. MDT

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Bloodhound
Provo, UT

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.

Say No to BO
Mapleton, UT

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?

wer
South Jordan, UT

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

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

srw
Riverton, UT

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.

Kralon
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA

"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.

Larry Chandler
CEDAR CITY, UT

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.

srw
Riverton, UT

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.

frogguy
PROVO, UT

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.

wer
South Jordan, UT

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.

srw
Riverton, UT

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.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

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.

Riverton Cougar
Riverton, UT

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.

A1994
Centerville, UT

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.

RG
Buena Vista, VA

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."

xscribe
Colorado Springs, CO

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

Guam_Bomb
BARRIGADA, GU

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.

The Rock
Federal Way, WA

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.

I know it. I Live it. I Love it.
Salt Lake City, UT

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.

Demisana
South Jordan, UT

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?

srw
Riverton, UT

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.

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