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Government makes Internet tax dodgers & those holding garage sales tax cheats
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Having a garage sale this weekend?

Then there’s essentially a 100 percent chance you’re breaking the law.

California mandates anyone conducting a garage sale to obtain a seller’s permit. That means state law requires you to collect 7.25 cents on every $1 you get for the resale of personal property.

Trying to enforce the law and making those who conduct garage sales de facto free agents for the state is virtually impossible.

Yet the state has no problem going after those who open a store front to sell second-hand merchandise and making them agents of Sacramento. They have, though, tried to go after what are essentially garage sales on the Internet by trying to force companies like e-Bay to require individuals marketing second-hand items to get a seller’s permit and collect taxes.

It underscores the unevenness, archaic, and unwieldy nature of how this state collects taxes. Loopholes, tax credits, and even impossible-to-collect taxes assures that only the honest that aren’t rich enough or poor enough to capitalize on credits and loopholes end up getting stuck with the bigger share of the tax burden.

Chevron can moan and groan all they want about their tax burden that still allowed them to pocket $3.07 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010. The truth is the people, who bought their products are the ones that generated the money to pay their taxes to leave them after other expenses a paltry $3.07 billion in profit for three months.

Back to garage sales for a second. It would take $120 in sales over a weekend to yield $10 in sales tax. Assuming there are 40 garage sales a weekend in Manteca with almost 70,000 residents that’s $400 a weekend. If the same per weekend per capita yield took place statewide it would come in at around $200,000. In a year’s time that is $10.4 million.

It’s a lot of money but try and collect it. Besides, it would probably cost the state close to that amount of money to issue, collected, process, and audit such sales permits.

The seller’s permit requirement for garage sales is nuts. It needs to go because it is impossible to implement and enforce.

California needs to have a modern tax system that is enforceable and - this may be a tough concept for lawmakers to grasp - fair.

The system needs to collect sales tax on all first-time transactions of retail goods from sellers to buyers and drop what is essentially a regurgitation tax on used items. It will take working with Congress to come up with the means to tax interstate trade via commercial websites. Allowing internet firms to act as if they have a free duty status is a double standard.

Amazon and such firms bellyache about fairness when such taxes are proposed but how fair is it when they are treated different for the same transaction as a brick and mortar store? Firms such as Amazon crying foul have significantly less overhead. They could lower prices more to undercut traditional retailers and accommodate sales tax collection and still be rolling in more dough than brick and mortar companies.

California needs a stable tax base to provide basic services that even companies like Amazon utilize.

But we also need one that is practical, fair, and reflects 21st century commerce and not the days when business was in the horse and buggy mode.

We need a system where families that already paid sales taxes on used items they are selling aren’t essentially tax cheats.

That system also has to make sure that companies that pile up obscene profits by craftily shirking their responsibility to collect sales tax are no longer allowed to be tax dodgers.