Tuesday, October 02, 2007

News: Greed hits a speedbump.

Straight from the catalogue of Dumb Government Ideas is the intarw3bz sales tax. See, the states, desperate for money to finance all kinds of stupid government projects, have been watching the e-Commerce goose lay a steady stream of golden eggs without any real way to get their fingers into the pie. Before the internet, revenue from catalog sales was small enough to safely ignore, but Amazon and eBay have dollar figures dancing in every politician's eyes. All that cash flow? Untaxed? Inconceivable!

So the politicians have been trying and trying to pass a law to tap the vein of all this e-Cash, and with the usual grace of politicians, too. Implementation? Heck, that's someone else's problem, as long as they get their money.

The problem is thus: Say I start an online business selling widgets. I'm going to have to somehow find out the sales tax laws of all fifty states, (which I'd call "Byzantine" except that I've read a lot of ancient history and never come across anything so complex in Constantinople,) and every month, mail off a check to the .gov in every single state that had a subject citizen try to save a dime by buying something online. Bear in mind that some states would have tax rates that varied by county, and others might tax widgets at a different rate, or not even tax widgets at all because of heroic petitioning by Colonial widget farmers. If it was a one-woman shop, I'd be spending all my time memorizing tax laws and mailing checks.

Apparently lobbyists have gotten that through to elected critters in at least a few states. I'd also like to think, although I don't hold out much hope for it, that at least one or two politicians realize that this would kill the goose laying the golden eggs. That would be a first.


karrde said...

The next big question is:

What if the company I'm buying from is a European company, with a domain name from some Pacific Island and a server in Russia?

Who is supposed to pay taxes to whom in that case?

Tam said...

Look, this law, if written, will be drafted by people who think teh intarw3bz are a series of tubes.

Think on that for a bit.


Ken said...

I already pay Ohio sales tax on online purchases. In addition, when my company sells online, we have to keep track of sales tax across all the states that charge sales tax (as well as by district or county in some cases, as Tam points out). Where it really gets entertaining is trying to account for the states that want you to charge sales tax on shipping & handling, too (PRK, I'm givin' you the stinkeye).

Anonymous said...

How is all this not an unconstitutional interstate tariff?

Billy Beck said...

Take it up with the Supreme Court, citizen. Good luck.

(...or; "Why d'ya think they call 'em 'opinions', dummy?")

princewally said...

"Bear in mind that some states would have tax rates that varied by county"

Part of LA have sales tax that varies by street. Try figuring that one out.

Anonymous said...

Not that this would stop them, but they cannot lawfully tax interstate movement of goods until they repeal or Amend Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which says, in part, "No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State."

Now, I'm sure that the Bill Clinton wing of the Reality Enhanced would try to babel-i-fy that with definitions of "Articles" and "Export," but the meaning of the thing seems pretty clear to me, and I think folks ought to make an issue of it.