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SALT TALK: My (E) Baby Wrote Me a Letter

Wayne K. Berkowitz CPA, J.D., LL.M. 03.26.2018 | SALT TALK

I always knew I could help prevent forest fires, but until I recently checked my eBay email, I was totally unaware that “[I] can help prevent Internet Sales Tax.” The Ad Council TV campaign of my youth used a friendly, sad looking bear to remind us to be careful, and it all seemed altruistic at best and harmless at worst. But somehow I failed to get that warm fuzzy feeling from the recent note sent to me by the “eBay Government Relations Team.”

I wasn’t aware that so called “internet sales tax” is some kind of viral disease infecting online purchasers of goods and (specifically enumerated) services. As stated below, the “Team” is convinced that the New York State Legislature formulated the virus in some secret lab and is looking to spread it to you, you, and you through legislation.

New York State legislators are attempting to impose new sales tax aimed at New Yorkers who shop online and the individuals and businesses across the country who sell to them.

The “Team” goes on to caution me that:

The products you’re used to purchasing online may cost more and could be more difficult to find.

I’ve had enough rhetoric from both sides. Government, let’s stop overreaching. But businesses, when you use government tactics (fear and misinformation) you aren’t helping to reach a fair and rational result either. New York is not looking to create a new tax. Reminder to all; the Use Tax, the compliment of the Sales Tax, is supposed to be remitted by New Yorkers buying those difficult to find items online. In other words, if the merchant doesn’t collect, you are supposed to remit.

While I still have hopes for federal intervention, I know that the most recent proposal didn’t make it to Congress. It’s almost understandable (Almost. See last week’s blog where I am critical of overreaching.) that the states are getting very creative to preserve the tax base, but those on the other side have an obligation to inform their customers of the issues and not use fear tactics in an attempt to quash any solutions they view as unattractive. But isn’t this always the case, sales tax or otherwise? If you have questions, contact me at WBerkowitz@BerdonLLP.com or your Berdon advisor.

Wayne K. Berkowitz, CPA, J.D., LL.M., a tax partner and head of the State and Local Tax Group at Berdon LLP, New York Accountants, advises on the unique requirements of governments and municipalities across the nation.

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