Too ComplicatedPosted by on Monday, June 11th, 2012
Following the law these days is impossible to do. There are too many regulations. People can’t keep up with them, and most people don’t bother. Taxes are only one example of this.
Throughout history, ceasing to pay your taxes has been a way of protesting the government. Of course, dodging taxes of any kind is highly illegal. There are ways to dodge income taxes by working under the table. There are ways to dodge property taxes by renting or simply not sending in your bill. But, if you live in a state that collects sales tax, there’s really not a good way to avoid paying them. A certain amount of bartering can be done (supposed to pay taxes on that, too), but there are certain goods and services that you need to pay for, and they collect tax for the government at most of these establishments.
As is the case with most government programs, the sales tax system is far too complicated. Everyone knows the income tax system is messed up. If I have to have computer software to tell me what I can and cannot deduct and I’m still crossing my fingers every time I file then something is wrong. But, the sales tax system is also complicated. In Maine, it is to the point where nobody really knows what is going on. The legislators don’t know. The store owners don’t know. The consumers don’t even know.
There are rules in place, but there are so many exceptions. Here are some examples:
Small containers of milk and juice are taxed at 7 percent if sold at a store in which 75 percent or more of gross receipts are from the sale of prepared food. (Pizza shop, sandwich shop, etc.)
Potato chips, pretzels and popcorn are exempt from tax. However, small bags (less than 6 ounces) must be taxed at 7 percent if sold by a store that falls under the 75 percent rule above. They are taxed at 5 percent as candy if they are coated in chocolate, yogurt, caramel or carob.
Granola bars, cereal bars and breakfast bars are tax free if the first ingredient listed on the package is granola, cereal, oats, fruit juice or fruit extract. If a sweetener, such as chocolate or sugar, is listed first, the bar is considered candy and taxed at 5 percent at a grocery or convenience store and 7 percent at a store that falls under the 75 percent rule.
Fruit baskets are generally tax free, even if they contain a “minor number” of candy or other taxable items. If a basket contains “taxable items of significant value,” the seller must either tax those items separately or tax the basket as a whole.
The purchase of five bakery doughnuts can be subject to sales tax; six are tax free.
At this time, Maine store owners are spending so much time and effort trying to comply correctly, that a bill was actually introduced to reimburse business owners for their time. This is a legitimate point. If a significant amount of time is spent on this nonsense, we are really doing a disservice to business. The bill died.
Of course, the tax was only started in the first place when the state government needed money (1991 budget crisis). How is it a good idea to dream up a new tax just because you aren’t spending your money wisely to begin with? Of course, they often place the new taxes on “sinful” things so that we can, in effect, dodge the tax if we will be good little citizens and not eat any donuts. Of course, they don’t really want us to do that because then their budget crisis won’t be fixed. But, they can’t very well levy a new tax on fresh fruit and vegetables. They would take too much criticism for that move.
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