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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wisconsin trying to collect cigarette tax from internet shoppers

Madison - State Revenue Department officials have sent more than 1,000 letters this year to Wisconsin smokers who bought cigarettes from Internet vendors, telling them to either stop buying them that way or pay the $1.77-per-pack state tax that took effect Jan. 1.

"You have been reported to DOR as a person who recently purchased cigarettes where the cigarette use taxes and sales taxes . . . due may not have been paid," the warning letter says.

It lays the groundwork for those smokers to be billed if their names show up as repeat buyers from Internet vendors.

State officials got the names from Internet cigarette vendors after notifying 75 of those companies that a federal law makes it their responsibility to ensure that taxes owed Wisconsin get paid. Officials won't identify the 75 companies that got those notices, citing laws protecting the privacy of tax information.

Internet cigarette buyers who get caught can be billed the $1.77 per pack tax, sales taxes, interest and a $25-per-carton fine, the letter adds. Officials also refused to say how many smokers got the letters, first mailed in February, or how much in taxes smokers who got the letters have paid as a result of threats.
I wonder how many of those thousand people are low-income, and whether we'll ever see stories of poor people being fined or jailed for failure to pay?

Later in the story, something for us to remember:

Wisconsin's $1.77-per-pack tax is expected to raise $523 million next year, or 76% more than what was raised before the tax increase. Because the tax increase took effect on Jan. 1, it is too soon to tell whether it will bring in as much as projected, budget analysts say.
We'll want to compare that to actual totals later on.