Vermont Sales Tax Collectors Cometh
- May 29, 2012 | Susan McLain
The Vermont Brattleboro Reformer reports that “Vermont is among a handful of cash-strapped states getting more aggressive about collecting every tax owed—hiring more collectors, hounding scofflaws and exploiting corners of their tax laws that haven’t been enforced in years.”
Scofflaws (if you didn’t know) is the plural of scofflaw and means, “A person who flouts the law, esp. by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively.” According to Merriam-Webster, scofflaw means “a contemptuous law violator.”
Apparently, according to the AP news report, Vermont is cracking down on scofflaws such as:
- A dentist by “…demanding a 6 percent sales tax on the value of toothbrushes and floss he hands out to patients;”
- A senior care facility who received a “…$350,000 bill slapping a 9 percent restaurant tax on the meals served to residents in the dining room;” and
- A landscaper who “…got $18,000 in bills taxing him for the first time ever on the mulch he sells.”
In the fight to avoid “no-new-tax,” Vermont “…has added about 10 new tax compliance auditors and has stepped up efforts to scour records in rural areas, and add greater scrutiny to businesses….” However, some taxpayers are fighting back.
The dentist, Frank Illuzzi, “…complained to his brother, Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, [and]…won an amendment to a tax bill just before the Legislature adjourned in early May…that exempts the dental goods from the sales tax.”
The law affecting the senior care facilities was also changed and its past tax bill canceled.
But the landscaper, who has “…operated his landscaping business for nearly all of its 36 years with the understanding that bark mulch, soil additives and similar products he sells were exempt from Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax,” was unaware that the law was changed in 2006. No notice was provided. Though he is fighting the bill, and is not the only one who missed the 2006 tax law changes, the State Tax Commissioner, Mary Peterson said, “It certainly is your responsibility when you have a business to be keeping up on the rules.”
But Steve Jones, owner of Metowee Mill Nursery said, “…Vermont’s tax department sent out a letter at the time talking about changes affecting beer and footwear…[but] nothing about garden products.”
These “scofflaws,” are apparently willing to obey the law, as Jones expressed, “Just educate me, tell me. I want to pay my fair share.”
In the meantime, the State Tax Commissioner “…acknowledged some taxpayers might be confused about the changes…[and] her agency is working on improving how it educates the public about tax policy.”