Thursday, May 14, 2009

Where's the best state to buy stuff?

I had an interesting question emailed from an out-of-country journalist. As part of his research, he was trying to factor sales tax issues into a discussion about where to buy electronic equipment.

The question raises two potential answers.

1. If the buyer is visiting the US from another country, then the easy answer is one of the five states that don't have a sales tax. The purchase is made in, say Oregon, and then the buyer takes it back to their country. No sales tax. Done. But there will probably be taxes when the buyer gets home. Sorry, I can only keep track of 46 different state sales taxes. Some other country, can't help ya.

2. If the buyer lives in another state (in the US), then it really doesn't make any difference where they buy the camera. Because we have this dandy thing called use tax. Even if they buy the item in Oregon, they'll still have to pay use tax when they return home. Because they used the camera in their state when they returned. The buyer probably won't pay, but that doesn't change the legal requirements.

And I'm sure the journalist wouldn't want to suggest to his readers that they violate the law by not paying the taxes they legally owe.

Sales Tax Guy
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Picture note: That's the Tribune Tower in Chicago. The journalist obviously wasn't from here, but that's the closest picture I could come up with.

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