Taxes

The Search for Cheap Smokes

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In a Hartford Advocate piece (where I make a brief appearance), Jennifer Abel, a frequent Hit & Run commenter, considers possible reactions to Connecticut's new $2-a-pack cigarette tax:

If you have friends in low-tax states, it's easy to have them buy cheap cigarettes and mail them to you. However, not everybody has connections in tobacco country. The most popular means of buying out-of-state smokes is to order them over the Internet, but smokers who avoided taxes this way got an unpleasant surprise last month.

"The Department of Revenue Services will begin sending notices … to Connecticut residents who owe the state taxes," said a DRS press release. "The initiative is part of an effort by the agency to ensure taxpayer compliance with state cigarette laws."…

Not every Internet customer will get a bill for back taxes, though. While most mail-order companies are required by the [federal] Jenkins Act to hand their customer lists to the government, one subset of retailers is exempt: Indian tribes who sell tax-free cigarettes are technically sovereign nations where U.S. law doesn't apply…

Allofourbutts.com is just one of many New York-based Indian cigarette sellers, this one run by the Seneca Indian Nation. The Advocate called to ask if the tribe turned its customer records over to state revenue departments. "We're exempt from that right now," said the woman who answered the phone (and preferred not to be named). "They're trying to get our information, but so far they haven't."

Connecticut's cigarette tax is now as high as Alaska's, Arizona's, and Maine's, in fourth place among state levies behind Washington's ($2.025), Rhode Island's ($2.46), and New Jersey's ($2.58). The lowest state tax is South Carolina's (7 cents); the average is $1.07. New York City's $3 state-and-local combo still has them all beat.

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  1. I live in SC and would be happy to mail anyone some cartons.

  2. Virginia is about 66 cents a pack IIRC. But, as I said in a previous thread, the state just makes up for it by taxing alcohol more.

  3. I’m in Arizona and like everyone else I buy my smokes at the res’, tax free, of course.

  4. bob mologna (and everyone else),

    South Florida here. Same deal, except the res’ is Seminole here…

  5. I live in SC and would be happy to mail anyone some cartons.

    By the time one pays the shipping one might just as well have paid the tax. But thanks anyway.

  6. And the smuggling will start and more people will go to jail for no reason.

  7. And the smuggling will start and more people will go to jail for no reason.

    Tax fraud is not no reason.

  8. Tax fraud is not no reason.

    Neither is marijuana possession. It’s not “no” reason; it’s just a bullshit reason.

  9. Let me guess, Dan T. will soon write something asinine about how if you don’t like it in Connecticut you can leave.

  10. Thank GOD for higher cigarette taxes. It is about time the smokers pay for all the health costs they all impose on us thru medicare. Also, the experts agree that higher prices are one of the most effective means to prevent children under 21 from smoking. We need a federal law to create a uniform tax in all states to prevent smuggling. I believe this is a legitimate use of the commerce clause.

  11. If you don’t like it in Connecticut you can leave.

  12. That above post was not by me, although it does reflect my views on the matter.

  13. We need a federal law to create a uniform tax in all states to prevent smuggling.

    Better yet, tobacco should be banned. It isn’t good for you. Who could oppose a law that will make us healthier. The government has a right and in fact an obligation to ban anything that isn’t good for us.

  14. I believe this is a legitimate use of the commerce clause.

    That’s a very interesting viewpoint, Juanita, seeing as how the taxes are all imposed by states, not the feds, and thus the commerce clause is irerlevant to this whole conversation.

  15. Buy smokes when you’re out of town and ship them to yourself. Then, only poor people who can’t afford to travel or buy in bulk will pay the taxes, like all good taxes work.

  16. Sigh — obviously I need to both read and type more carefully. Or, just get back to work.

  17. Neither is marijuana possession. It’s not “no” reason; it’s just a bullshit reason.

    It’s the law, it has been that way as long as you have been alive, that is the way it is. Quit complaining and get used to it. If you don’t like it move to Amsterdam.

  18. Huh. Indian reservations: last bastion of freedom.
    There’s poetic justice in there somewhere.

  19. I sort of feel like we have a duty to pay taxes whether or not we agree with them. Taxes are money you legally owe.

  20. “If you don’t like it move to Amsterdam.”

    Wouldn’t it be easier just to break the law and not get caught?

  21. Smokers die sooner, therefore their health costs are generally lower than the general population.

    Before 1920, women couldn’t vote for a bunch of bullshit reasons. I guess they should’ve all moved somewhere where they could… or better yet…

  22. Dammit, I used to bring cartons of newports down to my friends in Brooklyn so they didn’t have to pay through the nose for their mentholly goodness. Now I’m boned too!

    *MIDDLE FINGER TO CT STATE LEGISLATURE*

  23. If you don’t like it in Connecticut you can leave.

    I did.

  24. whoa, whoa… Sally Mae. Let’s not get confused here, ‘duty’ and such terms tend to signal moral claims. We might legally owe the taxes, but surely we don’t morally owe them. And if not morally, then not duty.

  25. It’s the law, it has been that way as long as you have been alive, that is the way it is. Quit complaining and get used to it. If you don’t like it move to Amsterdam.

    I got a better idea, Jane. Why don’t you take your “law” and move YOUR sorry ass to the middle east or some other nice place where they like lots of restrictive laws and very little freedom?

  26. Oh, and Jane? Take your friends with ya when ya go.

  27. And of course, the source for the tobacco levy information is:

    The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids

    Because as we all know, we tax cigarettes For The Children.

  28. I’m moving to the State of Nature.

  29. one subset of retailers is exempt: Indian tribes who sell tax-free cigarettes are technically sovereign nations where U.S. law doesn’t apply

    That’s not quite right. Federal law extends over Indian reservations whenever Congress says it does. It’s *state* law that doesn’t. The argument here must be that the federal Jenkins Act is parasitic on the underlying state tax.

    The situation with on-reservation cigarette sales is especially quirky (as evidenced by the store mentioned in the story that does cash sales, no records). When non-Indians buy cigarettes on reservation territory, they typically *are* liable for the tax. But the states have no enforcement mechanism against the tribes, so it’s up to individual consumers to pay the taxes out of their own sense of duty. Only on-reservation sales *to Indians* are in principle always exempt from the taxes.

  30. I’m going to order some cartons from that website first fucking thing. Screw you, Jodi Rell and legislators.

  31. Dammit, I used to bring cartons of newports down to my friends in Brooklyn so they didn’t have to pay through the nose for their mentholly goodness. Now I’m boned too!

    No, you’re not. RTFA. Christ, we even provided a link to a Google map SHOWING you exactly where to buy tax-free cigarettes!

    I would have mentioned how to save extra money (and the environment) via carpooling, but I ran out of space.

  32. aah, I forgot about Long Island. Score one for the tax evaders!

  33. I got a better idea, Jane. Why don’t you take your “law” and move YOUR sorry ass to the middle east or some other nice place where they like lots of restrictive laws and very little freedom?

  34. Before 1920, women couldn’t vote for a bunch of bullshit reasons. I guess they should’ve all moved somewhere where they could… or better yet…

    The misogynist cynic in me can’t help but note that as soon as women got the right to vote we got prohibition. Apparently you think up a bunch of wacky ideas when you’re cooped up barefoot in the kitchen.

    p.s. I will now go do penance for my sexism..

  35. Any politician or party who passes or pushes for these cig taxes is saying “Fuck the poor and the working class!” in the loudest and most clear manner.Smokers are disproportionately lower earners and are less able to afford the tax.

    Needless to say those who want these taxes are disproportionately Democrats… “The Party of the Poor and Working Families”.

  36. No need to do penance, Brandybuck. The ties between women’s suffrage and prohibition are well documented.

    http://www.erowid.org/psychoactives/women/women_info3.shtml

    “When women organized to secure their political rights in the late 19th century, their top concern was the question of prohibition. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was organized in 1874 by women seeking to address the violence and family problems caused by alcohol.”

  37. The misogynist cynic in me can’t help but note that as soon as women got the right to vote we got prohibition.

    Suffrage and Temperance were the main political goals of women. No coincidence there.

  38. Please leave smokers alone. THey are not bad people. I don’t even smoke and I feel sorry for all the taxes they have to pay. I may start to help off set the existing smokers increased costs. Can anyone suggest a good brand? Are chesterfields still around ??

  39. Does anyone know a site for indian-sold tobacco that, you know, won’t sell me out?

  40. Here in Ohio, we just drive to Kentucky or Indiana. I used to get cartons of Camels for 34 bucks after taxes before I quit.

    Cops sit at the border and tally the number of times certain cars cross the state border in a bid to catch smugglers.

  41. Does anyone know a site for indian-sold tobacco that, you know, won’t sell me out?

    Did you RTFA? She listed one. I am going to buy from them, because they carry my American Spirits.

  42. “We’re not going to have checkpoints,” Kaufman said when asked about the possibility. “We’re not the Gestapo.”

    Well, not yet. I can remember when they didn’t check for seatbelt violations as a primary reeason for stopping a car. Now we have checkpoints for it. Checkpoints for untaxed cigarettes are coming, if only to protect the children. ;~)

  43. SIV–

    True, but Republicans love taxing booze, at least where I live. They are also the biggest upholders of the state liquor monopoly and blue laws.

  44. I’m considering ordering from one of my friendly state Indian smoke-shops, but the last time I mail-ordered my cigarettes (from Switzerland) they were confiscated by that asshole Eliot Spitzer. This was a couple years ago. Any New Yorkers here been able to buy cigarettes online from anywhere recently?

  45. That above post was not by me, although it does reflect my views on the matter.

    Shouldnt your view be that if they dont like that tax in CT they should just buy the cigs in SC? Which is what they are doing. Why should CT tax a product that was legally bought elsewhere?

  46. >They are also the biggest upholders of the state liquor monopoly and blue laws.

    I love those “red dot stores” in South Cackalacki. There’s nothing to stimulate alcohol cravings like a big, simple, soothing geometric shape in most stimulating of the primary colors.

  47. Hey,
    In SC we also just repealed the law that limited the amount of alcohol in beer at a low percentage. We are moving up in the country.

    Next thing you know we can move above 45th in education. Nah, I’m dreaming.

  48. When I was in school in SC, we did a little dance with Mississippi, trading 49th and 50th place back and forth from one year to the next.

    Well, maybe it was Louisiana. In any case, I’m durn proud to hear y’all are up the 45th.

    Oh, and Go Cocks!

    Right, SIV?

  49. Actually I was stating a dream that one day we’d be 45.

    A few years ago I was at an awards lunch and got to hear the Superintendant of Education give a speech that was basically a big pat on the back. I have rarely been so mad as I was listening to her go on about how great things were.

    Her big idea was changing up HS so you chose a “major” as a freshman in high school. I have yet to run into anyone outside of that room that though this was a good idea.

    At our high tide the quote was “Thank God for Alabama and Mississippi.” I think we’ve slipped.

    And I prefer to cheer for the football team that has had less players arrested in the last 10 years than that school had running backs convicted of rape.

  50. Tamsin,
    I’m suprized their is no pc peta scheme to change the mascot from that noble combatant in the ancient sport of kings.

  51. Of course, Clemsonuee, I was being facetious anyway. And I appreciate your frustration over the speech given by the Superintendent of Education. Regarding the Carolina/Clemson thing – I am a USC alumnus but I think by the time I actually got to college I was over the whole school pride thing. But with SIV being on this thread and everything, I took the opportunity. I haven’t heard about the rape case(s) you mentioned.

    SIV, I am surprised too. Maybe they’ve got too much else else on their plate…hee ha…

  52. Late to the party, but good work, Jennifer!

  53. This is something I’m a bit curious about: If the state of Connecticut can demand taxes for cigarettes ordered online, what if one were to, say, purchase E-Gold, and then use that in exchange for cigarettes?

  54. I’m pretty sure taxes apply to barter, its just harder to enforce.

  55. “That’s a very interesting viewpoint, Juanita, seeing as how the taxes are all imposed by states, not the feds, and thus the commerce clause is irerlevant to this whole conversation.”

    How dare you, sir. The Commerce Clause is NEVER irrelevant.

  56. My dream is that someday soon the able Miss Jennifer will be on the Reason Magazine payroll and will be filing her own reports here on the Hit&Run blog.

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