7 February 2004
Ahead of the curve
"Entering Oklahoma set your watch back 90 years."
Actually, despite the old joke, sometimes we manage to be contemporary. Our semi-electronic voting system is speedy, far more reliable than anything they've come up with in benighted states like Florida, and dirt-cheap to operate.
Sometimes we're even ahead of our time. Who else in 1937, eleven years before the birth of Al Gore, would have thought of taxing the Internet?
No, really. From the instructions from Form 511, the Oklahoma income-tax form, page 10:
If you have purchased items for use in Oklahoma from retailers who do not collect Oklahoma sales tax, you owe Oklahoma use tax on those items. Use tax is paid by the buyer when the Oklahoma sales tax has not been collected by the seller. Individuals in Oklahoma are responsible for paying use tax on their out-of-state purchases.
Which, of course, includes all that stuff you ordered from nevermindwhereweare.com.
Conveniently, the use-tax rate is usually equal to the sales-tax rate: 4.5 percent state, plus county and city levies if any. (Here in the Big Town, it's a startling 8.375 percent.)
Businesses, who have had to keep books on this matter all along, have been paying this tax on a regular basis last year, the tax brought in $92 million or so but this is the first year that the Tax Commission has attempted to collect it from individuals through the income-tax return; they hope to increase the take fivefold.
And if you haven't saved all your receipts from online purchases ("if", he says), the state suggests an estimate of 0.056 percent of your adjusted gross income: if you made around $30,000 in 2003, your presumed use tax is $17. I don't expect anyone to go to jail over this, but a lot of people are going to be caught off guard.Posted at 10:36 AM to Soonerland