On Nov. 2, 2021, another vote will be taken in Joplin on whether to impose a use tax on purchases made via internet from Amazon or otherwise on purchases on which sales taxes were not collected. This will be the third time this issue has come before the voters, and previous times it was defeated.
A recent article by Rob O’Brian (Globe, Sept. 18) argued in support of the tax. This column considers the side opposed to the use tax in Joplin.
Often items purchased cannot be found locally. Let’s assume someone makes a large purchase such as a Rolex watch. Unfortunately, Rolex made the decision — unfairly in my opinion — to discontinue Newtons as a Rolex dealer. So that purchase, as with many others, cannot be made locally. No local store loses business on items that cannot be found locally. Nor is any service provided in Joplin to justify taxing such a transaction. Yet, under the proposal that is exactly what will happen.
For some purchases that might be made locally, often those purchases via the internet are made for convenience and a use tax is not likely to result in a local purchase. And those who want to support green initiatives should consider that many of these purchases save those buyers from having to drive to stores to make a purchase. And delivery services use far less in way of energy to provide delivery. For seniors, some of whom are housebound, this is a blessing. And with COVID-19, avoiding local stores as much as possible is a health issue for many.
So basically, this is a money-raising issue for Joplin. No service is provided to justify collecting the tax on items not found locally or that are purchased via internet for convenience. It is simply a way to raise revenue without providing services. And we have seen far too much waste in our local government. Remember the baseball stadium on which sizable tax dollars were wasted?
I wish I had more confidence in stewardship in our local government than I do.
And many local businesses that buy out of town will see sizable added taxes on their purchases, plus the time and payroll having to be spent in keeping track of which purchases were taxed and those not.
Record keeping can be bit of a nightmare, both for business and for individuals. Taking Amazon as an example: Unless you keep a record of each and every purchase come year end, you will have many purchases on which taxes were paid and some that only Missouri tax was collected. This will be true of any internet purchase or purchase by telephone, etc. So be prepared for a lot of personal and business record keeping that you do not have to do now. And there is no way other than recording each transaction and keeping track through the year to know those purchases on which the new Joplin use tax was not already collected.
I hope Joplin continues to vote down the use tax proposals. It is easy to spend other people’s money and impose on others bureaucratic record keeping. And we have many issues already passed or coming to a vote to increase taxes here even more.
If I felt that the tax were justified, I would support it — or if I had more confidence in those spending our money. But it appears, as the recent article indicates, it is just that you have the money and they want it. We see enough of this going on in Washington. We do not need it locally in Joplin.