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Not Paying, Still Taxing

by on July 14, 2010

One of the pleasant things about the Sunday Buffalo News is perusing everything other than the news part.  Actually, that should read “the only pleasant thing.”  I’ve always maintained that the useless rag’s executives should offer to deliver the commercial notices, coupons, comics, and issue of Parade for a buck per week, although they’d be embarrassed when an overwhelming percentage of readers choose the non-editorial delivery service.

For now, we still get the filler along with the killer ads, but it’s worth it for the discovery of efficient commercial possibilities.  I want neat stuff that’s on sale, and I want to organize a purchasing strategy that allows me to optimize my respective Best Buy and Target budgets.

Of course, astute browsers realize that the Wegmans circular reigns supreme among pitches, as it is more like a food catalog than a simple sale document.  The elegantly tidy layout and delectable goods selection make me look forward to exceeding my grocery budget every week.

Circular aficionados in turn look for a short piece in every edition from Mary Ellen Burris, the Senior Vice President of Consumer Affairs.  Supermarket patrons like what she’s selling.

What does she cover?  Past topics have included cannoli news and the plague of sticky tortillas. Okay, we’re not shattering the Earth here.  Still, she disseminates information that’s worthwhile in its way.  Learning about the supermarket’s distribution process and product testing is worlds more interesting than, say, Eugene Robinson’s syndicated column.

On top of that, she recently broke irritating news.  Burris dropped a political landmine during last Sunday’s article, as she focused upon something telling about this damn state.  She explains next to unbearably yuppiesque sale listings for Tuscan melons and something called Progressive Fruit Scoops how New York exasperatingly charges a levy on smart shoppers who don’t pay full price. Specifically, the hosed must fork over sales tax every time they enjoy a reduction by manufacturers on the reduction itself:

One question keeps popping up as shoppers review register tapes…how is sales tax calculated on items discounted through Shoppers Club?

The answer has to do with complicated state tax regulations.  The state sales tax laws require that retailers collect sales tax on manufacturer’s discounts, but not on discounts funded by the retailer. Sales tax is required on the price before the manufacturer’s discount comes off.  And this is a requirement regardless of whether the price reduction is electronic (Shoppers Club) or with a paper coupon. This even applies to products you get “free” with a coupon. Thus, sales tax is collected on the original price (before the discount/coupon) even though you didn’t have to pay anything for it!

[snip]

Because the amounts of manufacturer discount vary from item to item, it’s too complicated to show on your receipt exactly how much each manufacturer’s discount is on every item, but the register computers are programmed to calculate all this.  We’re just letting you know that there’s no funny business here…just compliance with not-so-simple tax codes.

“Not-so-simple” is a polite way of putting something unbearably complicated that affects both retailer and customer.  Set aside the wage hours it took to program registers: paying sales tax on a portion you didn’t pay is yet another flawless example of how New Yorkers are forced to encounter the absurd every time they make or spend money.

But think of our poor leaders who don’t already get enough from you in property, income, and sales tax.  They’re the reason you must get soaked for enjoying your deal.

On an unrelated note, there’s a reason why heartless mercenary LeBron James did not sign with a New York Knickerbockers other than the fact they are a crime against basketball: he would have had to forfeit a significant salary chunk to Albany, which possibly influenced his choice to play in the Sunshine/Income Tax-Free State.

He went all Atlas Shrugged on the northeast.  Who is LeBron Galt?  Now, the Randian hoopster is free to hang out with erstwhile New Yorker and present fellow Floridian Tom Golisano; they can buy plutonium-fueled roadsters and dine upon celebrity lobsters together, which naturally helps Florida’s low-income workers.  The downside is less money surrendered to bureaucrats enabled by politicians, meaning there is no downside.

As for the non-jillionaires among us in the Empire State, we’re stuck paying a phantom taxation rate for the privilege of being extended a price break by manufacturers.  It doesn’t matter how much it costs customers: what matters is that it costs customers, period.

Unfortunately for New Yorkers, this wallet vacuuming is just another in a countless stream of financial assaults by the most irritating state government evah.  Unfortunately for New York, we have other options.

After all, there are Wegmans locations in New Jersey, and conservative rock star Chris Christie makes relocation seem evermore tempting.  It’s not like anyone here needed another reason to bail, although they have one now.  Soon-to-be ex-New Yorkers will be fine as long as they can still get their precious Tuscan melons.

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