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The Almighty Buck

New Criteria for Net Sales Tax Proposals Released 13

jezor writes "For those of you interested in the issue of sales (and other) taxes and how the Internet affects their calculation and collection in the U.S., you may wish to look at the new criteria for evaluating taxation proposals released today by the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce. Courtney Macavinta of CNET has an article on the new release."
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New Criteria for Net Sales Tax Proposals Released

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  • Isn't that the truth. Lastly and in the butt.
  • Of course what none of these guys seem to understand is that some smartass is probably just going to set up two stores and just say "and if you live in the same state as this store, link over to FooStore East and get it tax-free."

    While most people would almost never drive a couple of hours to buy out of state, it isn't that hard to click a link.

  • While most people would almost never drive a couple of hours to buy out of state, it isn't that hard to click a link.

    This really depends. In the US, if a company has a retail presence in a state, that company must charge sales tax for all transactions to residents in that state at the state sales tax rate, assuming the state has a sales tax. For instance, Land's End charges state sales tax in NY because it has some wonky retail outlet somewhere in western NY. Because of that, any Land's End order in NY is charged sales tax!

    So, if company A has a link to company A 'East' or 'West', as long as they're both actually company A they must collect state sales tax. IANATA, but it may be possible to have a tax-free entity associated via a holding company, but IANACPA either..

    The point is, if a state wants to jump-start its internet company population it needs to exempt sales taxes on internet transactions and draw large retail operations which will make up the difference in corporate tax (as well as high-paying jobs that generate employee income tax and happy voters)..
  • by John Murdoch ( 102085 ) on Thursday October 14, 1999 @08:47AM (#1614970) Homepage Journal
    I find it extremely discouraging that this article has been posted on SlashDot for several hours, but only a handful of people have responded. And of the responses that have been posted, practically none indicate that the writer actually read the proposed criteria.

    This is extremely serious--it will affect the livelihood of every SlashDot reader, and it will have a major impact on the continued growth of the Internet. Why? Because these criteria, and the proposals that will be evaluated, will determine how the Internet will be taxed. And if the Internet is taxed there will be significant shifts in the E-conomy (to coin a phrase) as Internet businesses position themselves to avoid collecting sales taxes. If the state of California, for instance, enacts stiff sales taxes on e-commerce transactions, businesses will leave the state of California. If you're a network support tech in California, that affects your job prospects.

    What is also discouraging is the complete cluelessness of the government officials involved. They have not yet, evidently, realized the complications of what they're trying to do. I seriously question whether any of these people have done any kind of empirical study of their existing sales tax collections to determine if they have any glimmer of hope of collecting a dime. The rise of e-commerce seriously challenges the basis for sales tax--since sales tax has always been assessed on tangible, physical assets at the point those assets are transferred to the end user. Non-tangible purchases aren't taxed by practically anybody--only a very few states have tried to tax services (such as attorney's fees, software consulting, and other professional fees) and they generally have discovered that the cost of administration and collection exceeded the new tax revenue. (Pennsylvania, for instance, abandoned the services tax in 1998.) You can tax an e-commerce sale when it is essentially identical to mail order: place the order online, deliver the goods via UPS. In that circumstance the seller can identify the destination, and generally can identify the taxing jurisdictions (although not always). But what nobody is considering is the exploding business in software that is delivered across the Internet.

    Yes--SlashDot is heavily tied to the Open Source movement, so suggesting that software should be anything but free is a heretical viewpoint. Call me a heretic, but commercial software will only exist over the long term if there is money to be made creating it.

    As we have all discovered, there is no reason in the world to create a tangible product in order to ship software. Want to buy Microsoft Office 2002? Just enter your credit card information online and download the install set from Microsoft (a mere 2.3 GB of code!). It may seem a stretch today, but lots of software companies are embracing that model. My own company will move to download-only distribution shortly: we sell a couple of small applications for specialized markets (horse show management, and graphics for special ed teachers), and the time and expense necessary to burn CDs, package them, box them, and take them to UPS eats a considerable portion of a day.

    So somebody gives me a credit card number, and an address in the Cayman Islands. How am I supposed to know that the individual, in fact, is in Bowie, Maryland? Or what's to prevent some entrepreneur from setting up an "anonymous download" site, where you can use the site as a proxy to purchase software from another site?

    "The Internet changes everything" has been repeated so many times in the past year that it is already a tired cliche. But it is true here--the Internet effectively has to mean the end of sales taxes. It will cause upheaval in government--but it is inevitable. Any other conclusion requires driving e-business offshore.

    It's discouraging that the tax authorities don't realize this. And it's discouraging that nobody on SlashDot seems to care.
  • Apologies to all the non-USA /.ers out there, this message ignores you.

    While most people would almost never drive a couple of hours to buy out of state, it isn't that hard to click a link.

    Don't forget the most common form of out-of-state sales -- mail order. I see no reason why internet sales should be handled any differently.

    Of course, I'm not certain how mail order is handled now. What happens when the business is incorporated in one state, phone sales are in another, mailing address in a third, the shipping warehouse and the banking system are in states 4 and 5? When you throw a web server or two into the mix, it really doesn't change the situation all that much.

    Many states depend on sales tax for funding, and mail order/web sales are growing every year. If it becomes necessary, I could accept a uniform tax on all out-of-state sales, with the proceeds divided up based on the purchaser locations. The main reason why out-of-state taxes aren't collected now is the bookkeeping hassles of tracking 50 different tax rates.

  • I find your concept of anonymous drop sites very interesting. Instead of my suggestion of having multiple companies to avoid making one's customers pay taxes, which would be somewhat obvious, having the customers have multiple drops is rather sneaky. One only wonders if the cost of such drops would excede the price of the tax. A PO in the Caymans has got to be expensive, shipping-wise.

    I really agree with your view on taxes=less business. I happen to live right near the line between two cities. One recently dropped their sales tax to only 1% less than the other city's. Within about a year, there were "Now located X blocks down the street" signs on several businesses.

    As for people not posting here, many people don't check the old stuff page and, if they don't have their prefences set really high or reload slashdot obsessively, it just slips off the main page into oblivion.

  • This is all, unfortunately, going to come back to Visa and MasterCard. As part of the electronic transaction where you type your credit card number in to get your new pair of duck boots from LL Bean, the verification/charging process will include the application of the appropriate taxes by the credit card middle men (there are actually several players behind this curtain). The vendor won't have to deal with it at all (which they don't want to anyway) and the big transaction managers will have a couple of pennies stick to their hands as the money goes into the appropriate government coffers.

    Remember the Microsoft eWallet story that was floating around the other day? I can assure you that there are eyes in Talking Moon fixed firmly on this issue right now.

  • Yeah, yet another coin :)

    I believe that it should be some what obvious that the surplus of $$$ that is current in the US has allot to do with the Internet and ecommerce and the fact that the US is almost the center of all Internet activity.

    What do you all think will be the result of putting a tax on on-line sales? I think I have a idea... Business will move elsewhere.

    Sure, for a little while the tax will bring in more money... but, once people wake up they will take their companies elsewhere where there aren't such restraints. And, in the end you will have lost all that you gained plus allot of what you had before the tax.

    Okay, you can tell a person by their actions. Here are the recent actions of the US gov.

    1) Let's invade privacy and try to weaken encryption so that we can nab the drug lords (who could probably give a shit about your laws and will use better international encryption software... or, put national encryption software in their pockets and get on a plane. In the end, the people are the only ones left that can be monitored).

    2) Let's make some needed money by putting a Tax on the exploding realm of ecommerce (which will stun it's growth and force the money to go else where. One Q: What is better? a) Having 70% of all ecommerce based in the US and no eTax or b) Have 20-30% of it based in the us but a 5% eTax?).

    And these are just the one's I've seen discussed on /. in the past two days.

    Well, there are more but I must go. Please, point out one's that you find? I think the more stupidity is documented, the more people will try to stay away from it.

    - cyphunk

    Like, I thought politition's were educated?
  • The Tucson city council just proposed a 5% end-use tax, to be paid by those who order _ANYTHING_ by mail-order, on-line, or from any other ex-Tucson source. They're doing this "to level the playing field" so that Tucson businesses don't have the disadvantage of having to collect the local 7% (5% state, 2% city) sales tax. Can't find any on-line references to it yet; the local newspapers don't put the local news online, just the fluff.

    If I can find a DSL-enabled office site outside the city, I think it's time to move ....
  • Was this story on the front page for like 20 minutes or what? Too many people posting stuff IMO.

  • I don't know the details, but this sounds BLATANTLY unconstitutional. The constitution EXPLICITLY forbids states, cities, etc (basically anyone besides the federal governemnt) from collecting interstate tariffs, taxes, etc.

    Or am I confused and is this Tuscon city you speak of not in the USA?

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