A taxing subject
As last week’s meeting of the joint commission to study repeal of the state sales tax was drawing to a close, one of the audience members asked if he “could do something a little bit different.”
Rather than comment, Michael Rollins, chairman of the Rhode Island Libertarian Party, asked if he could ask the commission members a question.
When Chairman Jan Malik, D-Warren, told him it depends on the question, Rollins asked for a “show of hands”:
“How many members of the committee … have ever in their entire lives saved their receipts from out-of-state purchases, including Seekonk and North Attleboro, and at the end of the year, tallied up how much they supposedly owe in the so-called use tax and actually paid the stupid use tax?”
Rhode Island residents are supposed to pay a “use tax” on out-of-state or Internet purchases of items such as appliances, computers, books, cameras and jewelry if they intend to use the items in Rhode Island. The tax is 7 percent if no sales tax was paid, or the difference between the out-of-state sales tax and Rhode Island’s 7-percent tax.
Malik ruled Rollins’ question out of order, saying the responses “would be incriminating, and I love my committee.”
But he did speak for himself, saying he shops in Massachusetts and avoids using his car with its low-number state license plate, going instead in his “wife’s car.” He added that he might stop that very night in Massachusetts “and get my gas” there, “because it’s cheaper.”
But Malik said that was one of the points of the committee: to try and fix what’s ailing Rhode Island and driving business out of the state.
The discussion appeared to be over, but then Paul Dion, chief of the state Office of Revenue Analysis, said he pays the Rhode Island tax.
“As an employee of the Department of Revenue, I would like to go on record and say I do exactly that,” he said.
A taxing subject