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Saturday, November 23, 2013

California advertising its use tax

For several years, I have taken any opportunity to promote ways that states, particularly California, might increase use tax collection. That is, reduce its use tax gap. (Click here for links to a paper I presented to legislative and BOE staff in February 2013 another presented to a Sales Tax Commission in Vermont in October 2012.)

One suggestion is to run ads. Ideally, pop up ads on websites where people might be ordering goods for which they won't be taxed use tax. Ads in other locations would also be good, such as in lobbies and windows of government buildings. There could also be messages on pay stubs of state employees and on letters sent to any individual or business in California. The ads should let people know what a use tax is and that if we were collecting this tax that has been on the books since 1935, perhaps we could lower other rates.

Well, I was pleased to see, what I think is a new effort, to do a bigger educational push. I found links in a November 15 cyber shopping release from the BOE. It includes links to some short videos and an infographic (also here).  I'm not sure how many people are seeing the videos though. I just watched the use tax basics video (under 2 minutes) and that was only the 140th view it had in the 8 days since the press release!

One of the videos is about use tax when you travel abroad and bring items back.  It says you "may " owe use tax, but does not explain the very odd sales tax exemption for up to $800 of goods hand carried back to California every 30 days. This is a wacky and inappropriate exemption! (I'm working on a paper now to present to legislative and BOE staff in February. This is R&T Section 6405 and should be repealed. It is puzzling why the video doesn't mention the rule. It is summarized on the BOE website with an overview of the use tax.

Here is the infographic:


 The main BOE website has a banner about use tax:

Hopefully this tag line with intrigue people who don't know about a use tax to take a look, but they also might not know from the description that this even pertains to them. I'd be stronger - Have you paid your use tax?

What do you think? Do you think this is a step forward or not enough.

2 comments:

Michael said...

Simple infographic but it defiantly conveys the message. I would think 11,000 teachers spread across California could have a pretty big impact. Thanks for the post.

tax accountant Montreal said...

Very helpful infographic and it clearly shows how our taxes are used for meaningful means. By the way, I often visit your blog and its very helpful for me to understand taxation.