The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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


*Sigh*

Who reads the durn thing anyway? :( All we do is glance at the form for any differences. Look at the last one for reference and go. Irritated as heck that we pay one of the highest state income tax rates as it is :(

Posted by: ms7168 at 1:22 PM on 7 February 2004

With the increasing use of computer databases you'll see state and local governments all trying to get their share. There will come a day when businesses will have to supply a report to each and every state they do business in (i.e. ship to) with the name and address of the buyer. This will enable the state where the buyer is located to take its' cut. You'll also see states move to take their cut from the sales side of it. For example, if the buyer is located in Alabama and the seller is located in Pennsylvania the buyer will end up having to pay sales tax in both AL and PA. This will serve to virtually kill Internet shopping.

Posted by: Ralph Gizzip at 2:27 PM on 7 February 2004

Anybody who thinks the American surveillance state is a product of that period generaly referred to as the Information Age, needs to set their watches back about 90 years -- to the ratification of the 16th Amendment.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:19 PM on 7 February 2004

Actually there is nothing wrong with our voting system that couldn't be improved by smarter voters. I've used the butterfly ballot for years, I never had a problem. When I moved to Seminole County they had switched to paper ballots, which even a retard can use, or so one would think.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 10:12 AM on 8 February 2004

Agreed, but what's the likelihood of seeing a major upsurge in voter IQ? Not much, I fear.

The Oklahoma system requires you to fill in the appropriate rectangles with a sub-Sharpie-level marker, then shove the completed card into the box, where the top-mounted reader scans it and increments the counts as required. Quick and simple, and there's paper backup for every vote. The biggest problem with Florida these days is that in an effort to get off the front page, they're willing to spend ungodly amounts of money for some hypercomplex system that won't necessarily work as well as what they had before.

Posted by: CGHill at 12:43 PM on 8 February 2004