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In time, Cyber Monday will pay off for states

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: December 3, 2012
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This is an honor system. People don't always do what's honorable under a taxing method that's “voluntary” and difficult to enforce. The Oklahoma Tax Commission, which strictly enforces the remittance of sales taxes by local businesses that collect it, can't easily enforce a system by which consumers essentially self-report what they owe. Those who don't save receipts for precise payment calculations are offered an option on personal income tax returns to estimate — and pay — what they owe.

Cyber Monday is but one day of the year and a fraction of the holiday buying season. We don't know how much e-commerce is taking place within Oklahoma, so we don't know precisely how much sales taxes go unpaid. Earlier this year, former Gov. Brad Henry put the figure at more than $200 million. He and other current and former governors have supported federal legislation designed to level the playing field between local and remote retailers. Anti-tax conservatives have been cool to the idea.

Meantime, the dependence of Oklahoma cities and towns on the sales tax will continue. If anything, sales tax will become a greater piece of the state's revenue pie if conservatives get their way and reduce the income tax. Sales taxes will continue to be added to grocery and health care products — unless they're bought from Amazon.com or other remote retailers that don't collect taxes on Oklahoma purchases.

Either through legislation or cooperative agreements, the e-tailer advantage will shrink or go away. “I forgot!” will disappear as an excuse. And Cyber Monday could become merely the tail end of Black Weekend.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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