Monday, March 8, 2004 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Use Tax

The Associated Press reports that California and New York have joined the ranks of 20 other states that include a line on tax forms for individuals to report use taxes. Use taxes apply to goods purchased in other states and then brought home to a different jurisdiction. Sometimes these goods are purchased while traveling - like a suitcase to bring home trinkets from Disneyland. By most standards, the suitcase and the trinkets are all covered by use taxes. Oftentimes to the dismay of revenuers, a form of tax arbitrage takes place. That's one reason why so many furniture and outlet stores exist in Newark just outside of high-tax New York.

One big problem with the use tax is enforcement. Regardless of how difficult it is to enforce compliance, there is no excuse for states that fail to even ask citizens to pay the tax. I don't like sales or use taxes. As commerce and economic wealth trends toward digits, transaction-based taxes should become a thing of the past.

Nonetheless, if there is a properly enacted tax, then we ought to pay and it ought to be collected. There is a duel obligation: one for citizens and one for the state. Here in North Carolina, the use tax is universally known as "Line 16" for its place on the standard form. Now New York and California have their own place for the use tax. And, importantly, purchases made using the Internet can be taxed according to the laws of the state where the buyer resides.

posted by @ 9:48 AM | General