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United States Government The Almighty Buck News Your Rights Online

The End of Tax-Free Internet Shopping? 784

Posted by timothy
from the awaiting-a-60-cent-refund-check dept.
Mordok-DestroyerOfWo writes "If a little-known but influential alliance of state politicians, large retailers, and tax collectors have their way, the days of tax-free Internet shopping may be nearly over. A bill expected to be introduced in the US Congress as early as Monday would rewrite the ground rules for mail order and Internet sales by eliminating what its supporters view as a 'loophole' that, in many cases, allows Americans to shop over the Internet without paying sales taxes."
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The End of Tax-Free Internet Shopping?

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  • by netruner (588721) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:59PM (#27600169)
    How will this mesh with the Sears decision by SCOTUS? My understanding (I'm not a lawyer) is that taxing interstate commerce is prohibited by the constitution (the root of all US law).

    Any law geeks out there want to pick this one up?
  • by hbean (144582) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:59PM (#27600171)

    Overtaxed as we are already, this has been occurring in NYS for quite some time now. Some retailers like newegg resisted, but Amazon and others charge it even though they're not legally inside NYS's jurisdiction.

    I personally don't shop from amazon any less, but I've never been one to buy things off the internet I can't get locally (to impatient to even wait for overnight shipping).

  • by stei7766 (1359091) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:02PM (#27600207)

    9 times out of 10, shopping online will STILL be cheaper than retail.

    If big box retailers think this will save their ass, they're in for a nasty suprise.

    And I agree with the FP, sounds like this is going to be a mass of red tape. Think of the fights over who gets the sales tax from amazon...

    Sounds DOA to me.

  • by avandesande (143899) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:05PM (#27600239) Journal

    This 'loop hole' has been in existence since the beginning of the mail order business.

  • Not a problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle (975789) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:07PM (#27600283) Journal
    I really don't have a problem with paying sales tax, or taxes in general. Of course, I may not be thrilled with how my tax money is spent, but that's another matter. Taxes still play a major role in implementing civilization. And I ,for one, prefer civilization to the freedom-only-for-the-rich promoted by libertarians.
  • by mackil (668039) <movie AT moviesoundclips DOT net> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:08PM (#27600297) Homepage Journal
    From the FA:
    "California residents, for instance, are now burdened with a sales and use tax of at least 8.25 percent. State law is strict: if Californians travel to a state with a 5 percent tax and shop there, the law requires them to cough up the 3.25 percent difference when they return. Online purchases are taxed as well."

    This kind of thing really bothers me. It's as if all our money, wherever we spend it, belongs to our home state. I'm sure not many people actually "cough up" the difference, but just the principle of it really burns me up.
  • Re:which state(s)? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dotren (1449427) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:08PM (#27600305)

    Ok...so which state will the taxes be going to? The state in which the business operates out of, or the state in which the purchase was made in, or both?

    Probably both. Everyone that really matters (i.e. NOT the consumer) is happy and retail stores use the "double" online sales tax as a marketing point for you to buy at their physical stores.

    I can almost hear what they're thinking right now and it kinda sounds like "CHA-CHING CHA-CHING CHA-CHING".

  • by zymano (581466) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:11PM (#27600339)

    any taxes on their internet purchases.

    LOL.

    They talk a good game though.

  • No they won't. 5% directly passed onto the consumer isn't going to destroy these businesses.

    This is a tax people have been paying all the long.
    well, they were supposed to be paying it, they could be criminals and just whining because the can't commit their crime any more.

  • by S7urm (126547) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:14PM (#27600371)

    OK,
    My money has been taken out of my check, automatically, without my permission, and being used to pay for services I will never be able to benefit from. I then pay MORE taxes, to even more agencies for infrastructure maintenance that I have no say over what gets fixed, or when. THEN I get to pay even more taxes on the goods I purchase with what little money I have left after all those previous taxes, and now they've found ANOTHER whole new way to tax me.

    I understand the whole "taxation without representation" thing, but this is getting as bad. Why am I paying into programs that, because I'm 27, will never be able to use because they'll be long bankrupt by the time I'm old enough to benefit from them?

    Also, how are they going to dictate who gets this tax, and how is it reported? and what do they do in an international purchase? Will I have to pay tariffs for items purchased overseas? Will they charge me another tax, to pay for the foundation of this new taxation system?

    America is going tooooo far with what is expected of it's citizens to pay already!!!
    We've somehow now become endebited to the banks, because we'll get stuck paying for the bailout. Though it would have been CHEAPER to just hand every American Citizen over 10 Million dollars a piece. We're seeing record highs in unemployment across the board, it is becoming more and more frequent that companies are cutting cost of living increases and merit wage increases, not to mention bonuses, 401k matches, etc.

    How do they expect us to now pay MORE with LESS? It's incredible that people are ignorant enough to think that it is somehow OK in this nasty economic climate to impose even MORE cost on normal citizens for something we already can't afford!!!

  • by gapagos (1264716) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:14PM (#27600373)

    Overtaxed as we are already

    Overtaxed? Are you kidding me? If anything, Americans are extremely UNDER taxed.
    Have you looked at your deficit recently? Have you ever compared your personal income tax rates to any other country's other than tax heavens? I didn't think so.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:14PM (#27600381) Homepage Journal

    Overtaxed, what the hell does that even mean?

    People shouldn't focus on taxes, they should focus on services and their costs. Taxes are just how you get money to cover those costs.

  • Ding Ding Ding! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:14PM (#27600383)

    I live in NH, which has no sales tax, but the issue you mentioned is by FAR my single biggest pet peeve, and the only complaint I have about any taxation in our country.

    It's inconvenient. I dont like to drive 10 minutes to Mass, see something that says $5, and be asked for $5.20 ... regardless of any semantics over who "pays" if the price tag said $5.20 my objections would vanish...

  • by larry bagina (561269) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:18PM (#27600461) Journal
    You raise an interesting issue. Let's say you download some music, software, movies, etc from teh pirate bay. Today, that's not a crime (uploading -- distribution -- is). But tomorrow, you may be charged with tax evasion or conspiracy to commit tax evasion.
  • by argent (18001) <[moc.agnorat.6002.todhsals] [ta] [retep]> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:19PM (#27600467) Homepage Journal

    State law is strict: if Californians travel to a state with a 5 percent tax and shop there, the law requires them to cough up the 3.25 percent difference when they return. Online purchases are taxed as well.

    But compliance is spotty at best. California's Board of Equalization estimates the state lost $1.34 billion in 2003 because residents aren't paying use taxes--and attributes $208 million of that to online purchases.

    This reminds me of the RIAA's definition of "lost revenue". The state didn't lose anything... with a law as badly thought out as this, any money they did collect should be treated as a windfall. When you create a law where the only possibility of any compliance at all is people's innate honesty, just be glad that so many people are basically honest and bank what you can.

  • Re:which state(s)? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:20PM (#27600477)

    Not exactly. You have to pay tax if the seller is operating (or has operations) in your province. Otherwise it's free!

    Not exactly.

    Obviously, in Alberta and the territories where there is no provincial sales tax, you don't pay the tax.

    In the HST provinces, you generally pay no matter where in Canada the seller is, because he has to collect GST and, that usually means collecting HST if he's selling to and HST province.

    In the individual pst provinces, BC, SK, MB, ON, QC, PE the out of province seller isn't obligated to collect it... but you are still legally obligated to pay it. That means you are supposed to self assess the PST you owe and send it in yourself. In practice, nobody does this, except businesses (who get audited regularly to make sure they are self assessing pst on imports and consumed goods).

    Individuals get nailed much more infrequently, unless its an item where they have to register the transaction. (For example, if you sell a car privately in BC for example you wouldn't normally collect PST from the buyer, but the buyer gets nailed for it anyway when he registers the car for insurance.)

  • by mackil (668039) <movie AT moviesoundclips DOT net> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:20PM (#27600479) Homepage Journal
    I work for an online retailer here in the state of Washington. Recently, our state passed a law forcing all state business to collect sales tax based off local jurisdiction, instead of our home jurisdiction. They then allowed only two companies to actually handle all that info, with whom you are required to deal with in order to collect the proper amounts. Needless to say, the complexity involved was not fun. Not to mention the thousands of dollars it costs to deal with the "government approved" sales tax info vendors.

    Having this kind of thing go nationwide makes me quake with fear.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:24PM (#27600541)
    Wrong. The deficit is not from undertaxation, it is from overspending. There is a big difference.

    Americans in general are not unwilling to pay for government... they just want less of it.
  • Re:which state(s)? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trahloc (842734) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:24PM (#27600543) Homepage
    Don't apply logic to law, you'll only hurt yourself.
  • What? reship becasue of a 5% increase?
    It would cost you more money, a lot more money.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:24PM (#27600565)

    First, taken in context it's pretty clear that he was talking about taxes coming out of your paycheck. Even politifact agrees with that sentiment (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/promise/515/no-family-making-less-250000-will-see-any-form-tax/ [politifact.com])

    Second, this isn't really a tax increase at all since you're supposed to be paying taxes on online purchase as it is. It's called a Use Tax and just because you haven't been paying it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Besides, there is no reason why purchases made online should be tax free other than it is difficult to enforce. I would even say that it gives online vendors an unfair advantage over local stores.

  • by Gospodin (547743) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:25PM (#27600579)

    People shouldn't focus on taxes, they should focus on services and their costs. Taxes are just how you get money to cover those costs.

    You'll see the error in this line of thinking when you apply it to the private sector. Would go like this: "People shouldn't focus on PRICE, they should focus on services and their costs." In other words, the $100,000 price tag of that new fully-loaded BMW is perfectly fine. Look at all the car you get!

  • Re:which state(s)? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danwesnor (896499) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:25PM (#27600591)
    I think a lot of Americans just got grateful for our low state taxes. We pay 4% state and another 4% city/county.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:25PM (#27600593)

    Tell your government to stop overspending YOUR taxpayer dollars, and you'll have a valid argument. As it is now, you're spending so fast that at your current income tax rate you'll NEVER pay back what you owe. But if that's your intent, perhaps other countries should take that as a hint and stop lending it to you in the first place eh?

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:27PM (#27600619)

    What is the justification for sales tax on an internet purchase?

    "We want more money (because what we take from you already is being misused)".

  • Re:which state(s)? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:28PM (#27600635)

    No... the retailer spent a lot of money on that retail space. They'll say it's simpler, because it will be shipped from the local store to your house, which is why you already pay tax if you buy something at Lowe's, they have a nexus in your state.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:28PM (#27600637)
    What if we did not want those services in the first place? In that case, we have a legitimate reason to protest.
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:30PM (#27600677) Journal

    I'll bite.

    The deficit is a result of us overspending, not us being undertaxed.

    As far as personal income taxes go, rates are low. However, I also pay FICA into a system which I hold little hope of seeing money come out of. My employer has to "match" this tax -- basic economics indicates a large percentage of this ultimately comes from my pay. I then pay taxes to my state. I then pay taxes locally. I pay property taxes. Occasionally I get a one-time assessment. I pay tax on gasoline. I then pay sales tax. Every item I buy has a hidden tax in it as I pay for all of these employment and sales taxes that are bundled into the price of the goods. I have to pay a tax to get a driver's license or renew my plates. I have to pay to get my car emissions tested. My internet and telephone have various taxes added onto them. On certain roads you have to pay for the privilege of driving on them. I am sure there are a half-dozen more taxes I pay that I am not thinking of or am unaware of.

    And what we get back for what we pay for is ludicrous. Welfare for banks and other financial institutions, welfare for folks who don't want to work. And the ability to invade other countries.

    At least in Europe you get a half-way decent health system. Here, after paying all of these taxes, we are stuck paying for our own. And generally, your pension systems are funded. Here, they are underfunded.

    So please don't tell me I am undertaxed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:31PM (#27600685)

    Insightful? I would have to disagree. The issue isn't a lack of tax revenue, it is one of unchecked Congressional spending. My 11 year old son understands basic budgeting. Don't spend more than you make. If you don't make enough, go out and earn more. Unfortunately, Congress doesn't feel compelled to earn as they can just take. If you sincerely feel that our level of taxation is unfair, why not simply pay more? You can, in fact, do so. Overpay your taxes and never file for a refund. Put your money where your mouth is.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:34PM (#27600751) Journal

    President Obama does not control state sales tax.
    President Obama's plan does not introduce legislation to allow collecting state sales tax on internet purchases.

    So within the realm of what President Obama can control and what he has proposed, he has completely fulfilled his pledge.

    If this were a bill being passed by the Congress in the state of Michigan, you'd be correct. Unfortunately, this is a bill proposed by the United States Congress. The President has veto power over that bill. This is within his control.

  • Re:Use tax (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:36PM (#27600777)

    Yes, that's the argument... but isn't it odd you don't need to pay to use things you buy in state? Hmm... I really hate the judges that buy these garbage arguments. Use tax should never have flown.

  • by mckyj57 (116386) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:36PM (#27600783)

    +1 on that. Especially when you run into mob-connected bureaucratic nightmares like New York State, who literally don't give a crap about the problems they cause for others. Pay up, baby. Our way. We don't care about how complex it is -- comply with thousands of state and local tax regulations even if you are a small business.

    The software route is no good because nothing is universal enough.

    I could get behind a tax initiative if the states adopted a flat online sales tax rate for all items in all localities. No different tax rates by county or municipality. Just the base state rate.

  • by javelinco (652113) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:40PM (#27600851) Journal
    So, you can't fight a rising deficit by cutting spending? Like we've done every other time we've come close to lowering the deficit? Don't ignore inconvenient truths, right?
  • by Jhon (241832) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:40PM (#27600869) Homepage Journal

    Have kids? Were you one? Ever read "The Little Red Hen"?

    According to the new paradigm, the Little Red Hen is greedy and selfish. All I can say is "WTF"?

    Your choice of words ("supposed overtaxation (sic)") and choice of analogy ("white conservatives" learning what it's like to be "whining by blacks and other minorities") says a lot about your perception.

  • Re:Not a problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gospodin (547743) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:41PM (#27600873)

    Hmmmm... yes, I'd say that's a completely fair dichotomy. Clearly, anyone who says their taxes are too high must be arguing for a zero-tax anarchy state. Thanks for opening my eyes!

  • by unfortunateson (527551) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:41PM (#27600885) Journal

    A company such as BestBuy, Borders, and so on already collects sales tax for the states where they have a presence.
    A company such as Amazon does enough volume of commerce that they can afford the accounting to figure whose tax is owed to whom.

    But a small company may have only a few cents to collect for a given state over a day, week, month or even year. Counting the beans costs more than the beans are worth.
    Most likely, "Sales Tax Clearinghouse" companies will crop up, which will offer to file your forms with each state and distribute... for another fee.

    When we ran an online store (selling Children's Books), most of our customers were out of state, but we did collect for our home state... which amounted to less than $50 per year most years, especially as many in-state customers were schools and churches (which do not pay sales tax). Multiply that by, what, 48 states that collect sales tax? The paperwork is horrendous.

  • More like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SteveFoerster (136027) <steve AT stevefoerster DOT com> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:43PM (#27600913) Homepage

    Americans in general are not unwilling to pay for government... they just want less of it.

    Unfortunately, I think it's more like Americans in general are not unwilling to have government... they just want someone else to pay for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:45PM (#27600965)

    "My understanding (I'm not a lawyer) is that taxing interstate commerce is prohibited by the constitution (the root of all US law)."

    Individual states cannot tax interstate commerce, no. That's why this legislation is being introduced at the US Congress. There's certainly nothing to stop the federal govt from passing laws to tax interstate commerce.

    I have to question the probability of success given all the bru-ha-ha over taxes and "tea parties" yesterday. Though, really, those protests mean nothing unless the protesters are united in which govt. services to cut, or who should take up the tax burden, to relieve their supposed "overtaxation." What I really think we're about to see is conservative whites in America learning what it's like to be a minority in a democracy - what they derided as "whining" by blacks and other minorities for all these years.

    Yep, because it's ALL about color.

    It's a little different when YOU are the one who worked hard to get where you are, and you happen to be getting paid more for it (REGARDLESS of color)... which means you keep getting taxed more and more and more. And for what? To support the lazier or more irresponsible among us. Now, that's a generalization, but you can't tell me the majority of those below the poverty line are seriously working just as hard as most those above.

    If you want to earn more, then you're going to have to step it up instead of relying on everybody else to bail you out all the time.

    That's only one aspect of the tea parties. But, that's the part the media focused on. The TRUE spirit of the tea parties was to protest taxation without representation. That means they feel they aren't being represented. So, because they feel that way... why pay taxes? That's the real reason and true cause of it.

    Since when did it become a partisan thing anyway?

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:47PM (#27601003)

    Well, with this, my taxes will go up, and my family makes under $250,000/yr

    But you aren't legally required to pay a dime more with this law than you were legally required to pay before the law existed. By that logic, increased funding for IRS audits also increases the taxes you pay because it would be riskier for you to try to cheat on your income taxes. There is no change other than enforcement.

    The fact is, you were getting away with violating the law before, now you won't be able to. Get over it.

  • by KiahZero (610862) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:49PM (#27601033)

    These taxes already exist. People are evading them since it's currently infeasible to audit citizen's online purchasing history, but those taxes are already owed.

    This isn't akin to a new tax; rather, it's as if stricter auditing were leading people to have to pay taxes they could previously dodge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:50PM (#27601055)

    Taxes are not going up, most states have a "use" tax. Just because you don't pay it and this will force you to stop breaking the law does not make it a tax increase.

  • by KiahZero (610862) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:50PM (#27601061)

    If you are currently paying $0 in taxes because you've found a way to dodge an audit, and the IRS figures out a way to force you to pay taxes you already owe, did they just "raise your taxes?"

    If you think they did, your definition of "raise your taxes" is stupid.

  • by kaszeta (322161) <rich@kaszeta.org> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:51PM (#27601071) Homepage
    Several things both me about these proposals that occasionally get floated around:

    1. They make the implicit assumption that everyone has a sales or use tax, and that people are avoiding it. That may be true in many cases, but not mine, since my state has neither. I don't

    2. Similarly, it's unfair for businesses operating here. For a business located purely in my state, it's not a fair burden for them to have to calculate and collect use tax for any of the hundred (cities, counties, states, and various other revenue districts) that someone might be in when they click their mouse to order. I don't mind the "nexus" argument for sales tax (hey, the company chose to set up shop in a state? Then you can learn the tax rules and when to collect them), but extending it to use tax isn't fair. If a state really feels they need a use tax, it should be their responsibility to figure out how to collect it, and not involve companies that don't even have nexus in their state.

    3. They talk about simplifying it, but there's already enough cases that I can this not working correctly (person in state A buys a gift from vendor in state B for shipment (from state C) to the recipient in State D).

    I say get rid of the sales tax. They aren't necessary, we've got several states (including my own) that get along just fine without them.

  • by kpainter (901021) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:51PM (#27601083)
    You got it. Our debt is so large that nothing seems excessive in comparison. If I had $1000 of credit card debt, an additional $100 charge seems like a lot. But if I had $100K in credit card debt, $100 seems like a drop in the bucket and hardly worth a second thought.

    I don't know how we get out of this. Raising taxes will not reverse the spending habits. If anything, our gov will just spend even more.
  • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:56PM (#27601187)
    Yeah, it's kind of sad how people keep going on about this, but Obama's spending so far is not really any different from Bush Jr., Bush Sr., and Reagan who in turn each ran up the largest deficits [zfacts.com] in spending than any president since WWII. As conservatives often point out, Reagan constantly called for a balanced budget amendment, but he himself never actually proposed a budget that was balanced. Small wonder then that between congress and he the deficit ballooned. I'm guessing that it will be very difficult for Obama to increase the deficit in the long term, thanks to recent republican president's propensity for long, expensive, unnecessary wars and their inability to balance a budget. It has nothing to do with political ideology, it's how much U.S. debt the world economy will support.

    If I stop think about it, it really pisses me off that conservatives are so easily hood-winked by the rich upper class and Wall Street who call for smaller government and lower taxes whenever a democrat is in power, but what we end up with is tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor, and a huge deficit to boot. Stupid.
  • Re:which state(s)? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grotgrot (451123) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:56PM (#27601191)

    Also the purchase may travel through several other states. And what happens when I am physically in Alabama (while travelling), order an item to be sent to Montana, use a company credit card based in Delaware and have a home address in California with the item shipped from Colorado manufactured by a company in Ohio, via a website located in Washington.

    I'd much rather see sales taxes abolished since they complicate retail and hurt the poorest people the most (they have to spend most of their income to live and hence proportionally pay way more sales tax).

  • Re:which state(s)? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:01PM (#27601275)

    New York has one. You're either supposed to say how much stuff you bought on the internet, or pay a flat $20 in sales tax. On the average year I buy $4-5k of stuff online. That $20 is pretty attractive.

  • Oh yes blame the hard working successful people for wanting to keep the fruits of their labor. (And to defuse your race-bating, I know many people who are outraged at the tax and government spending who are, as you put it, black or other minorities. The difference between them and the people you speak of is; the people I know do not use race as an excuse!)

    News flash for you: we are over taxed, this is not new we have been saying this for a long time.

    The government needs to stop funding things it was never meant to do in the first place; the war on drugs, welfare programs, rebuilding other countries, and the list goes on.

    Social security is a perfect example. It never should have been the government's responsibility to save money for you to retire on. You don't save money for retirement... oh well! You will be a burden on your children (or if they are smart an example of why you should save money)

    BTW...

    The United States of America is not a democracy! It never has been a democracy! it is a Representative Republic. We are Representative Republic because the founding fathers happened to plan for just what you complain about in your last statement ;

    What I really think we're about to see is conservative whites in America learning what it's like to be a minority in a democracy - what they derided as "whining" by blacks and other minorities for all these years.

    The majority having the power to squash the minority, the system is set up to help prevent that.

    The problem with that setup is what we are seeing now. Our representatives are not Representing us any more, it has been like this for some time now. People are starting to wake up and see this, as the haze clears they look at their wallets and get angry. That is what the Tea Parties are about.

    The blame falls on the whole country's shoulders, we became complacent, we let them strip our rights and our money from us! As they did it we smiled because we were living in good times with a strong economy. This country needs another great depression it just might be the glass of cold water that wakes us up.

  • Re:Use tax (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:05PM (#27601353)

    But it's not a tax on commerce. It's a tax on use. "Use" and "Commerce" look nothing alike. They aren't pronounced the same at all. "Use" taxation is on the basis that you use that thing you brought across state lines. And how do we valuate that property that you're using? Hmm... maybe, what it sells for. A percentage of the sales price in the state you brought it in from. And since you bought it there, you even have the receipt that tells you what the basis of taxation will be!

    Yes, the reasoning is specious, fatuous, and bogus. But the shallowest of rationalizations seem to work out just fine in matters of taxation, as long as the government is the one doing the rationalizing.

    I wonder what happens if you buy a thing in one state and never use it in your state of residence. Will they charge non-use tax?

    I think the decision-making went something like this:

    "We want a sales tax that we can impose on interstate commerce."
    "But you can't do that, the Constitution forbids it!"
    "Well then, we will call it a 'use tax' instead of calling it a 'sales tax' and that will make it okay! It's the exact same thing called by a different name, but it's somehow completely different and not illegal or illegitimate in the slightest! By the way, I don't understand why the people don't respect us?"

    It's just a blatant attempt to circumvent the Constitution, only the average person is too stupid or too apathetic to recognize the threat that this represents if it remains unchecked. If you can ignore or get around one part of the Constitution with impunity, you can do the same with the rest of it.

  • by moeinvt (851793) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:10PM (#27601443)

    "We do in fact need higher taxes in order to pay off the monstrous debt we're accumulating."

    NO!!!! What we need to do is stop accumulating debt by getting renegade government spending under control!

    "Only anti-Americans would still be wanting lower taxes given the huge crisis we're facing."

    What happens when an anti-American comes into contact with a regular American? The so called "crisis" was manufactured by the Washington DC power brokers and their politically well connected friends. If we had the limited Federal government that The Constitution mandates, there would be no "crisis". The Federal government sucks the lifeblood out of the economy by taxing the honest hard working citizens. Then they turn around and use the money to fund imperialistic military crusades, line the pockets of the wealthy elites (bailouts, subsidies, no bid contracts, etc.) take a cut of the profits to pay the salaries and benefits of bureaucrats, and if we're lucky, maybe spend 20 cents on the dollar in actual services to the people who pay the bills.

    Social Security and Medicare are supposed to be separate from the general fund. Take that off the table, and then tell me where the government is spending your tax dollars.

    Foreign Wars
    General military spending
    Bailouts
    Interest on the national debt
    Welfare programs (non SS or Medicare)

    Things like education, infrastructure spending, science and research funding, etc. barely make a dent.

    If you feel like paying more taxes to fund U.S. imperialism, enrich the financial elites and well connected corporations and pay for welfare programs, the government is accepting donations.

  • by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot <<ten.egdup> <ta> <todhsals>> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:11PM (#27601463) Homepage Journal

    I have to question the probability of success given all the bru-ha-ha over taxes and "tea parties" yesterday. Though, really, those protests mean nothing unless the protesters are united in which govt. services to cut, or who should take up the tax burden, to relieve their supposed "overtaxation."

    The average tax burden for Americans is -- just in direct taxes -- about 40 percent of our income. If you had proposed that to a Founding Father, you'd likely have been hanged or shot. Most Americans believe it's obviously true that we are overtaxed.

    What I really think we're about to see is conservative whites in America learning what it's like to be a minority in a democracy - what they derided as "whining" by blacks and other minorities for all these years.

    The difference is that the "whining" that conservatives complained about was people wanting to be given something that was taken by force from someone else, whereas conservatives are "whining" about not being able to keep what actually belongs to them.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:19PM (#27601585)

    Probably about as often as tax cheat Republicans paid their tax on internet purchases.

    But probably far less often than moral conservatives get high on pain pills after railing against "druggies."

  • by Ironica (124657) <pixel.boondock@org> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:25PM (#27601673) Journal

    So, you can't fight a rising deficit by cutting spending?

    To an extent, you can. But what do you cut? "Social programs"? Those social programs are going to prevent a lot of hard-working, skilled Americans and their families from starving or going homeless over the next year or two. Will *you* be the one to tell the family of four who have weathered three layoffs in two years and already seen the last of their six-month emergency fund that we're cutting their food stamps from $338 a month to $288? Or dropping the program altogether? And once you do, you've got, what, 2% of the deficit paid off? What's next? "Social programs" account for a tiny percentage of the federal budget.

    Should we raid Social Security (again)? Drop infrastructure spending (again)? Cut education (again)? We're going to need that SS cushion, or people won't retire, and jobs will continue to be scarce. Our infrastructure is already suffering badly, and it costs more to clean up after a disaster than to prevent one (Katrina anyone?). Education is essential to remaining competitive in the global economy; as it is, we're having to import large numbers of health-care workers from the Philippines and other countries with better schooling available, and even the less-skilled pink/white collar jobs are shifting overseas at the speed of a telecom connection. Will our deficit situation improve if, in 10 years, we have even *fewer* literate and numerate 18-year-olds? Will their parents be able to "take up the slack" if they're working three part-time jobs to make up for the food stamps we took away, or to cover the emergency room bill since they can't afford to go to the doctor regularly?

    And again, those things are a relatively small percentage of the budget. We could completely redirect education spending, and it wouldn't make much of a dent in the deficit. Maybe we could sell the Brooklyn Bridge?

    Defense is really the only place where we spend enough money for cutting to make a big difference. Care to raffle off a B-2 bomber?

    Yes, we have to watch our money... but there's such a thing as penny-wise and pound-foolish. Many of our spending cuts have *cost* us money in the long run. The suggestion that we should be able to pay off the deficit simply by "cutting spending" is to suggest that we are living beyond our means by maintaining a first-world existence.

    We do need to increase revenue. Our taxation brackets are based on much smaller amounts in real dollars; we need to start ratcheting things up slower, so that on the bottom end (the five-figure households) you're paying the same or less, but at the top end (your seven-figure-a-year earners) you're paying more. YES it's wealth redistribution. I don't understand the argument against it; we're all in this together, and no one is going to pull down a million a year unless there's infrastructure and a quality labor force to build on. Try posting a CEO resume in Zaire, really... see how many bites you get.

    I also think that, in this day and age, the IRS needs to change the "bracketing system" to something more intuitive. We look at the "top bracket," see the figure "35%", and FREAK THE FUCK OUT... how dare they take over a THIRD of my hard-earned money? But that's soooo not what is happening, is it? A family with $400,000 taxable income is actually paying 28% in taxes, and you better believe that at those numbers, they've got $100k or more in deductions; they'll be tracking their sales tax, deducting property taxes on homes assessed at seven figures, paying mortgage interest, contributing to Roth IRAs, and so on. Now they're actually only paying 22% in taxes on their gross income. (The plural of anecdote is not data, but my mother's experience, when she married a millionaire and retired from teaching public school, was that they paid a tax figure that came to 12% of their gross income; the numeric value of their taxes the first year was LESS than what she'd paid the prior year on her teacher's salary.)

    It i

  • by jweller (926629) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:41PM (#27601933)

    We do in fact need higher taxes in order to pay off the monstrous debt we're accumulating.

    Oh my god! you're right. I deserve a raise because I have a huge mortgage I could never afford, 3 car payments, and $60k in credit card debt.

    ktappe in 2012

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:44PM (#27601983) Journal

    Welfare for people who don't want to work? I'm sorry, but with unemployment as high as it is, there are a lot of people who want to work and can't find it out there. I am lucky and have a nice career, but others not so much

    Sorry, I am not referring to anyone who is out of work. I am referring to folks who professionally game the system. Folks who haven't worked a day in their life and get a check. I lived next door to a house full of folks getting subsidized housing and monthly checks for various "disabilities". Apparently attention deficit means you cannot work and get $700/month (that is what the 21 year old kid bragged about). His mom got money for taking care of him and reduced rent. They had other family members with other "problems". Didn't stop them from playing basketball in the street at 1:00am, getting girls pregnant and making themselves a nuisance.

    Now contrast this to a friend of mine. Profoundly retarded. He has a case manager and also get subsidized rent. he however works about 25-30 hours per week. The work he does could be handled by a five year old and I am sure the employer is subsidized to make work for him. Yet I don't have a problem with this at all. He has the dignity of contributing to society. He has legitimate problems, yet still has a desire to "pull his own weight". I have no problem with society helping him pull that load.

  • Overspending (Score:4, Insightful)

    by copponex (13876) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:47PM (#27602055) Homepage

    You're right. All we have to do is cut military spending, from a trillion dollars per year in 2008 to something more reasonable, like 500 or 400 billion.

    It's funny, that never seems to be an option for the ideological right.

  • by fedos (150319) <allen DOT bouchard AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:50PM (#27602101) Homepage
    Most states get a decent portion of their road work budget from the federal goverment. This is why the legal drinking age is 21 and the interstate speed limit is 55 or 65: states have the power to change it but if they do then they no longer get the federal subsidies.
  • by rjstanford (69735) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:51PM (#27602127) Homepage Journal

    What's really funny is listening to people complain about places like France. One of my co-workers, not long ago, remarked during a discussion about real health-care, "Well, how would you like to pay 50% in taxes?" The thing is, for those of us who get their money from income (most people), we already do. Add in your employer's share of the taxes (social security and medicare), and you're getting close ... and what's more you still don't have any real health care! Add in the $300-350/month it costs for decent coverage, and we're actually paying more for significantly less coverage.

    Sigh...

  • by Jhon (241832) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:02PM (#27602347) Homepage Journal

    You are wrong. The primary cause of our deficits is not "skyrocketing health care costs", but most local, state and federal budgets that completely ignore the fact that tax dollars will rise and fall based on the economy. They project unrealistic income based on "good times" tax-revenue and spend accordingly. Then when revenue falls short (as it ALWAYS does), they have to raise taxes or cut spending. Continuing to "raise taxes" through these cycles can only last so long.

    Further, often the citizens of a given locality or state will exacerbate the problem. Example, in California which was already suffering from massive deficit spending, the voters passed a bill to fund stem cell research. $2billion dollars out of tax payers pockets and not going to keep roads repaired. That's on top of the now $40+ billion hole we're already in.

    My "McMansion" is (by California standards) a modest, below average sized home (~1700 sq ft, on 7000 sq ft of land), below the median price. My "hummer" is a 1989 toyota pickup. My "greed" was a desire to own a modest home, in a modest neighborhood and keep as much of the money I earned by my own sweat and sacrifice as is reasonable.

    When I get my trash fees in LA raised 4 times in the last 5 years to pay for the same 1000 police officers which are never hired, this is unreasonable. When as a home-owner, I'm responsible for public sidewalk repair adjacent to my property BEFORE I can sell my house -- regardless that taxes have already been collected to cover the cost, this is unreasonable. When I'm called "greedy" for balking at my hard-earned wages being taken from me to pay for support and aid to a 17 year old single mother -- when both my wife and myself made the choice to wait for the benefit of our future family, this is unreasonable.

    My wife and I already pay 50%+ of our income in taxes. More than half my money being taken away is unreasonable. Particularly when it's spent as irresponsibly as local, state and federal governments have spent it.

  • by flaky2 (1492855) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:11PM (#27602507)

    The business DOES pay the tax, and we are subject to audit, the fun kind of audit where the taxing authority comes in and says 'you owe us one meeeelion dollars' and you have to disprove us.

    We charge YOU taxes because WE are responsible for paying them to the government.

    Now multiply this by millions of possible variables.

    My business, and online retailer, would track all of the sales and use and VAT and blue and green taxes that apply by product type, color and aroma, all this for each of thousands of taxing authorities, and then pay these taxing authorities according to their rules, with supporting documentation, AND we make sure we can survive being audited by all of them.

    Side note, a business CAN sell things with the taxes included in the price, if they display this to the purchaser. A good example is a bar, they'll have a sign that says taxes included in the purchase price. If they don't, they can be hit for taxes, again, by an auditor, happens all the time.

  • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:17PM (#27602593)
    Yes, I'm sure the majority of my taxes go to education and fighting Somali pirates
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:21PM (#27602645)

    The average tax burden for Americans is -- just in direct taxes -- about 40 percent of our income. If you had proposed that to a Founding Father, you'd likely have been hanged or shot.

    Were these the same founding fathers who believed in free speech? I think they'd be far more appalled at what you just said than at any of these economic issues.

    The difference is that the "whining" that conservatives complained about was people wanting to be given something that was taken by force from someone else, whereas conservatives are "whining" about not being able to keep what actually belongs to them.

    Really? Conservatives were complaining about the Native Americans losing their land? Oh wait, that was *justified* force, I forgot. You guys have your morality written in your pocketbook.

  • by sirwired (27582) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:23PM (#27602687)

    Yes, ideally, folks should save for their own retirement. However, practically, most people except the most hardcore libertarians are against deciding you should starve to death because you ended up with insufficient cash when it came time to retire. What do you do for folks that lose their money through theft? They get to starve because they were unlucky?

    Many of the "problems" with Social Security come when people think of it as a govt. mandated retirement fund. Yes, when looked at in that light, the costs are high and the returns poor (although the requirement to invest only in T-Bills was a stroke of genius; if the trust fund were in private investments I can only imagine the pork-barreled SNAFU that would be.)

    However, Social Security was not conceived as a retirement program, it was conceived as an anti-poverty program for the elderly and unable to work. Looked at in that light, it makes a lot more sense: we (the citizens of the U.S.) achieve a jointly decided on societal goal of trying to keep penniless elderly and disabled fellow citizens from literally starving to death due to hunger.

    There are real problems with Social Security as it currently exists, but its very existence is not one of them.

    SirWired

  • by teg (97890) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:28PM (#27602767) Homepage

    News flash for you: we are over taxed, this is not new we have been saying this for a long time.

    Actually, you are vastly under taxed. The US is running a huge deficit - even in boom times. To cut the deficit, the US will probably have to cut costs and raise taxes.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:47PM (#27603121) Homepage

    Idiots! We are in what is being described as the biggest economic calamity
    since the Great Depression and these idiots want to discourage people from
    engaging in consumer spending.

    Brilliant.

  • by jcrousedotcom (999175) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @04:02PM (#27603415) Homepage
    There is already taxes collected on *anything* that ships.

    Unless it is a download only item (software for example) taxes or other fees are paid on *at least* all of the following:
    - Sales and excise tax on fuel for the truck moving the product
    - IFTA fees
    - Apportioned vehicle resigistration fees
    - Property taxes paid by warehouse facilities of shipping company
    - Income taxes paid by shipping company

    This is what came to mind off the top of my head. These are specifically taxes associated with *shipping* the product. You're now paying on top of that as well if they enact interstate sales taxes. I realize that any product purchased in a retail location paid many of these same taxes (via shipping costs) as well, but the point still stands - folks are already paying on this.

    Plus the single most important part of all this - everyone who lives in a sales tax state pays Use Taxes [myflorida.com] (FL), right? :)
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @04:09PM (#27603527)

    If was I assured that the government was using my tax money efficiently and productively, I wouldn't have an issue paying them. However, the government uses our money neither wisely nor efficiently.

    Here's a small example of how wasteful my city is. My city has a budged deficit like virtually ever level of our inept government all over the country. During a radio interview during the winter he said we were one snowfall away from declaring bankruptcy. It's the same song and dance year after year. Somehow they never set aside enough money to cover snow removal.

    But here's the good bit, after he made that statement we had a fairly minor snow storm, amounting to maybe a couple of inches. And yet I distinctly recall plows running up and down the streets of my neighborhood to clear the small bit of snow lying at the edges of the street. The street itself was mostly clear of snow. This nonsense went on for two days.

    In addition to that these idiots in the snowplows did their plows into the pavement. Every time one of the trucks goes by the rumbling is intense from these plows and sparks are flying. So what's the end result? Sometime this summer crews will start patching all the potholes. And the stretches where the streets are really torn up they'll end up repaving everything, and some of these streets have been paved within the last 10 years.

    But then they complain that they have no money. And they can't cut spending even if they wanted because every last department and union refuses to make cuts. The head of the board of education, who earns nearly $200,000 a year for not doing much of anything refused to forgo a raise because she needed it to cover cost of living increases.

    And god forbid anyone propose cutting taxes in certain areas, like education. Nevermind that my city spends, on average, significantly more per child than any other country on Earth and I'd say that the quality of education is crap in comparison to what I've seen overseas. There are some good people out there, but money is squandered carelessly and apparently a lot of this money goes to the fat cats running the system.

    So what's the solution? Like a bad welfare case or a drug addict the government resorts to squeezing a little more money out of people. Property tax is already ridiculously high in my city and we're looking at it going even higher this summer.

    With utilities or any company I have the ability to dispute charges. I can moderate usage, or if I'm unhappy with a provider I can cut service. What the hell can I do with the government. Nothing. The buck stops there. I don't pay and I go to jail. And good luck trying to dispute anything.

    What's really bothering me is this blind faith I see in the government nowadays. Like anyone who questions the government is doing something wrong; just look at the media's response to those tax rallies yesterday. And then there's the frustrating nonsense about how we need to punish the wealthy. More like punishing success.

    And I love how tax rebates are portrayed as gifts from the government. It's my money, first of all. And secondly, this is simply a nice way to guarantee that these "tax cuts" are temporary. And third, this way they can give handouts to people who haven't even had to pay taxes, but do already enjoy the benefits of our welfare system. I'm all for putting money towards educating people out of poverty and ignorance, but I am completely opposed to handouts. Time and time again it's proven to be a failure, remember those FEMA debit cards?

    And the problem isn't only the obvious taxation on income. It's all the other fees the government slips in there to screw us out of our hard-earned money. Like this damn internet taxation. It's a nice way of spreading out our tax burden so that we don't notice how bad it actually is. Sometimes I wonder if what we pay to the government doesn't already rival what Europeans pay.

  • by Eil (82413) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @04:18PM (#27603673) Homepage Journal

    It's been awhile since I took my business law class, but I seem to remember that the federal government's role emphasizes the promotion of interstate trade. In other words, if a state passes a law that arguably restricts interstate trade (for example, a state import tax), higher federal courts will generally strike it down. This is the *only* reason why we haven't seen every state create its own compulsory interstate mail order tax so far.

    In order for a mail order tax to get anywhere, it either has to be a federal tax, or it has to be a state tax that is explicitly designed and enabled by U.S. Congress, which is what it sounds like TFA is getting at. Even if that does get through, however, someone is going to challenge it in court and precedent will heavily favor them.

    (But mark my words, someone will figure out how to effectively tax mail order purchases eventually. It just might take a few more years.)

  • by snowtigger (204757) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:33PM (#27605201) Homepage

    Technically, I don't think mail order is a loop hole as much as it is a tool of free trade. I think the origin to this "loop hole" is a free trade agreement between states established by the federal govt. Not having taxes between states benefits competition in the market place.

    In CA, the state charges a tax on everything that is sold. This tax is paid by the business for the privilege of operating in CA and of course passed on to the consumer. If I live in CA and buy something from another state, I'm technically supposed to declare "use tax" for the goods bought elsewhere, but used in California. Of course, no one does that, but that's another problem.

    Within the European Union, there is a similar free trade agreement. Countries are no longer allowed to tax goods and services coming from other country. The difference to the US is that EU countries are better at collecting the "use tax".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:21PM (#27606249)

    I spend twice as much as I make. Therefor it MUST be the case that I am underpaid by 100%.

  • by shentino (1139071) on Friday April 17, 2009 @12:28AM (#27607897)

    Alas, the problem is that you cannot reliably distinguish a wolf from a sheep, so you wind up having to give the wolf veto power in a check and balance case rather than risk giving them steamroll power in a "single point of failure".

    The issue isn't authorization and validation, it's authentication.

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