Taxes

Florida State Government: Creating Libertarians One at a Time

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A Florida man spent $23 at the local hardware store, but noticed on his way home that the store forgot to charge him the state's sales tax.  So when he got home, he (somewhat oddly) wrote a check to the state Department of Revenue to cover the tax.

Big mistake:

He sent a check to the state for a dollar and 50 cents—with a full explanation. But the very next month—the agency demanded Scott pay a 50 dollar fine —because it thought he was a business—that failed to file tax returns.

Scott sent another letter to Tallahassee clearly stating that he was paying sales tax as a customer after a minor mistake. He thought that was the end of it. But far from it—the next month the revenue department insisted Scott was a business that had to pay a 650 dollar fine—or face collections —AND criminal charges."And possibly prosecute me under a third degree felony for stealing money from the state," said Scott.

It took an inquiry from an Orlando news station to get the matter corrected.

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  1. It is the hardware stores responsibility to pay the tax on revenue regardless of whether they collect the tax or not. Sending in the money because they forgot is just stupid. If anything, you take it to the store.

  2. I feel bad for the guy but you’d have to be borderline retarded to mail in the sales tax. First of all, it’s $1.50. Get a sense of scale. Even if you believe in paying taxes, it just makes no sense.

    Secondly, anyone who has ever dealt with government for 5 minutes knows that if stuff doesn’t come in through normal channels, it’s either ignored or completely misunderstood.

    That’s like mailing your car registration renewal to the address of the central headquarters of the DMV as opposed to the address they provide. At best it’ll be thrown out.

  3. Note: my comment above does not excuse the Florida idiocy at all. Watching bureaucrats react to unique situations is funny.

    They need to show some adaptability.

  4. Third, any time you try to “do the right thing” in regards to the state, you’ll get screwed twice as hard.

  5. The problem was the guy thought he was dealing with people. He wasn’t. He was dealing with a system. Anyone that’s seen “Brazil” knows that a system only understands the inputs its been designed to understand. If you fall outside the parameters it understands, all hell breaks loose as it tries to reconcile a unexpected input with its standard outputs.

    Such is the weakness of centralization, it has very little flexibility. Frankly, I think if he hadn’t contacted the newspaper, this might have eventually been resolved by an IRS audit, because then the proper input would have been achieved. Until then, though, he would have found increasing problems as he tried to explain his situation to a group whose job it wasn’t to figure out how to resolve it.

  6. Third, any time you try to “do the right thing” in regards to the state, you’ll get screwed twice as hard.

    Yes, excellent point. It is my default reaction to always lie to the government and tell them exactly what they want to hear. Never, ever, tell the truth, especially if that truth is complicated in any way.

  7. “I feel bad for the guy but you’d have to be borderline retarded to mail in the sales tax.”

    I don’t think so at all. He probably just innocently thought it was the citizens patriotic duty to be a good little taxpayer. So if a business failed to collect the sales tax, it was his duty, as a citizen to pay for it.

    Now of course, he probably realizes that he was incredibly naive to think that taxes were collected with gumdrop smiles and a thank you.

    Calling him stupid won’t help the poor man become any more libertarian–sadly his behavior is the logical result of an indoctrinating public school system.

  8. They need to show some adaptability.

    This is why Government by Orangutan would be a better alternative than what we currently have.

  9. Calling him stupid won’t help the poor man become any more libertarian–sadly his behavior is the logical result of an indoctrinating public school system.

    I’m calling him stupid for thinking that it makes fiscal sense to send in $1.50 through unusual channels. Shit, his stamp alone is almost a third of that.

    This is why Government by Orangutan would be a better alternative than what we currently have.

    You really want Dr. Zaius running the show?

  10. Since when does innocently thought it was the citizens patriotic duty to be a good little taxpayer not equal borderline retarded?

  11. yes. yes. Zaius. toilet. kiss. kiss.

  12. /agree with Ergo.

    Scale aside, in principle the guy was just being extra conscientious in following the law, and he got screwed for it. Hard.

  13. The reason it’s retarded to mail in the sales tax is that ultimately the hardware store is responsible for paying the tax. When the hardware store gets audited, they’ll be fined for not collecting tax on that sale. Thus, the tax will ultimately be collected twice (with a penalty). It also costs the state more than $1.50 in processing to deal with that check. A payment that small is a drain on resources. I don’t know about FL, but most states have a self reporting mechanism for other uncollected sales taxes (ie, out of state purchases).

    Still, Mr. Anderson should be compensated for dealing with the states unfounded, incorrect, and negligent legal accusations. Whatever happend to don’t look a gift horse in the mouth?

  14. It is never a good thing to get the attention of the tax authorities unless absolutely necessary.

    My vote: idiot.

  15. This poor man’s actions and their results reminds me of this Franz Kafka story:

    Before the Law

  16. Brazil is a pretty damn good movie, and I think I can blame it for turning me into libertarian since I watched it for the first time, stoned, when I was 17.

  17. The moral of the story is, never volunteer to give money to governments.

    -jcr

  18. It’s not just a matter of centralization, it’s a matter of scale.

    Florida is just too damn big a polity to expect sensible reactions from its bureaucracy.

    This would not have happened in Vermont, because Vermont is the right size. In Vermont, the office that handles all state tax payments has about 5 girls working in it, all of whom either me or my accountant knows by name and has worked with before. I could mail them a stack of pennies and a note written using a letter replacement cipher and as long as the envelope had my name and return address on it they’d figure it out in the end, or would call me.

  19. “Brazil is a pretty damn good movie, and I think I can blame it for turning me into libertarian since I watched it for the first time, stoned, when I was 17.”

    Somebody needs to start a foundation to ensure that every high school junior has this same kind of opportunity.

  20. I think calling this guy names is unnecessary. Who knows what his true motives were? What his story demonstrates once again is that to-the-letter compliance is often the best way to stick it to bureaucrats.

  21. “What his story demonstrates once again is that to-the-letter compliance is often the best way to stick it to bureaucrats.”

    Sometimes civil obedience can be as effective as civil disobedience.

  22. Where does this feeling of being patriotic by paying excessive tax come from? IMO it is paying excessive tax that is un-patriotic.

    Part of the reason for founding the country wasn’t from a lack of feeling the need to pay more tax to the king IIRC.

    We are right back to taxation without representation now. Politics is theater for corporations and special interest groups.

    I realize we already have a ratio of dollars sent per state to the feds versus dollars received back. But now that states like CA and NY will be going to get fed money to cover their states overspending I will be forced to pay.

    This is indirectly taxation without representation because I can not even vote for the idiots in those states. Only my own idiots here at home. So your idiots decided to spend billions they didn’t have and you sent them to office in your state and now I have to pay 13 states away. FUCK THAT.

    Screw the government anyway and anytime you can. I assure you they are thinking of 1001 more ways to screw you at this moment. Looks like those of you in NY are fixing to get screwed 137 new ways last counts I had.

  23. My company recently got a demand letter from State of Cal. fining us $107 for being 7 cents short on our tax payment. Note that the tax return has printed right on it “Whole Dollars Only.” Anxiously awaiting a reply, or a s.w.a.t team. Must remember to keep the puppy in a closed room.

  24. seems like he was being more of a wise ass than an idiot….

    …but being a wise ass to the gov (and giving them your name address and bank account number) does seem to qualify as being an idiot…

  25. From the linked article:

    Scott, a federal park employee, spent just 23 dollars for a few items—-and later discovered the store failed to charge sales tax.

    Scott thinks the store used a tax exempt account linked to his job.

    [emphasis mine]

    I think the italicized words in the quote go a long way to explaining this guys mindset. It strikes me as unlikely that this episode will move him anywhere near libertarianism.

    The second sentence makes me think that a clerk at the Ace hardware thought he was possibly cutting a break for the guy who “tackles repairs around the house himself” by putting the purchase on the tax exempt account from his job.

  26. The assertion in the 2nd para of my post is based on the assumption that the clerks at the store knew the guy pretty well from his personal and job-connected trips to the store.

    Ace hardware clerks are kind of funny that way.

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