Idaho Taxes Children, Not Amazon
- Sep 3, 2013 | Gail Cole
One summer day in 2013, 12-year-old entrepreneur Tayson Weeks was selling raspberries from a street stand in Pocatello, Idaho, when he was approached by a representative from the Idaho State Tax Commission. She reportedly handed him an official state tax form and "told him he had to collect sales tax and turn it over to the state." Tayson had been in business for two days.
Shaken, he immediately called his father, Jason, who spoke with the Tax Commission representative and learned his son is required to charge sales tax on the fruit he sells. He has until October 15 to remit it.
The raspberries are from Tayson's grandfather's farm in Utah. While growing up there, Jason sold plenty of raspberries and never collected sales tax because Utah allows an exemption for farm-grown produce sold by family members. Yet Idaho doesn't exempt sales of fruit and vegetables, even those sold by a boy working saving up to buy a motorcycle.
According to Saul Cohen, a tax policy specialist at the Idaho State Tax Commission, the organization is tasked with collecting the taxes imposed by the Legislature. When it approaches young people selling taxable goods, it does so in the name of education. "What the youngster is doing is selling tangible products. The tax code defines what a retailer is. Our mission is to advance fairness in collection. Some people don't know they're retailers."
Tax the cookies
This is not the first time Idaho has made headlines for asking children to collect sales tax. Earlier this year, Idaho Girl Scouts asked the State Legislature to exempt their sales of cookies. Their lobbyist (a Scout mom) argued that the "State of Idaho should not balance the budget on the backs of Brownies." Lawmakers disagreed, and "sales of tangible personal property by [boy scout, girl scout, and 4-H group] members, such as cookies, food, and magazines are subject to the sales tax. The club is responsible for the collection and remittance of the tax." (Idaho law, p. 78).
Leave the big kids alone
If the Idaho State Tax Commission is willing to ask Girl Scouts and 12-year-old boys to collect sales tax, it is not willing to do the same to Amazon.com.
Idaho lawmakers considered imposing a Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which would have positioned the state to quickly take advantage of the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 (should it ever becomes law) and tax remote retailers. In practice, many out-of-state businesses that are not classified as "doing business" in Idaho are not required to register with the state Tax Commission or collect sales tax. That's why online retail behemoth Amazon does not collect sales tax in Idaho, but young Tayson Weeks does.
How do your children handle sales tax? Automation gives them time to play.
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