Local News

Online shopping convenient for customers, but not state coffers

Posted November 22, 2012
Updated November 23, 2012

While some folks still love to line up for Black Friday, more and more consumers are shopping online.

It's definitely more convenient, but it's also digging a big hole in the state budget.

A popular iPad, for example, lists for $729 at a big box store, where customers can expect to pay $49.10 in state and local sales tax at checkout.

But customers who purchase the same item online will save the tax dollars. Multiplied by millions of households statewide, and the dollars add up to millions.

“We’ve gotten some research that indicates we could potentially lose as much as $214 million this year based on e-commerce transactions,” said Beth Stevenson with the state Department of Revenue.

The problem is a matter of law.

When retailers have a physical presence in North Carolina, like Best Buy does, they're required by law to charge you sales tax. Retailers that don't have a physical presence here, like Amazon, are not.

That's more money in your pocket, right? Not so fast, Stevenson says. online shopping Online shopping costing state millions in taxes

If sales tax is not added to the final bill online, the consumer is supposed to report it on his yearly tax return. But Stevenson says a lot of people don't realize that and don’t pay. And there’s no good way to track the ones who don’t.

“Kind of our basic goal here is just to make sure that everyone is aware of their obligations and paying their fair share,” she said.

State officials say Congress will have to deal with the problem. There are a couple of bipartisan bills in the works that would require all retailers to collect state taxes.

In the meantime, Stevenson says, consumers should save their receipts to make it easier to track what they owe in sales taxes.

40 Comments

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  • raleighlynn Nov 23, 7:47 p.m.

    No raise in the last four years. I pay enough in income tax to state and federal. If you find the state of N.C. has owed you money for over a few years, you're S.O.L. getting it back. So, no, shopping online does not trip my Catholic guilt complex whatsoever.

  • Bartmeister Nov 23, 7:36 p.m.

    Remember that when you do not get your next raise.
    piene2

    ================================
    Your next raise depends on the state budget? Bwahaha......... No wonder you're suffering. Good thing Perdue wasn't running again, you'd never get a raise!!!

  • fkhaywood Nov 23, 6:07 p.m.

    I am retired and live on a fixed income. If I'm lucky I might get a 2% increase some years. I buy a lot of stuff online 1) to save money, & 2) I cannot find the item in local stores. It costs money to run around trying to find things. Wal-Mart does not carry every thing. Shipping is usually more than the 6.75 % sales tax, so I need the cheaper price of on-line shopping.

  • ripetomatoes Nov 23, 2:25 p.m.

    So you pick and choose which laws you obey and what you steal. There are a lot of stories in here every day about people just like that.piene2

    You just described the NC Legislature and the US Congress.

  • radium Nov 23, 12:29 p.m.

    I'm just following the Republican mantra of not paying taxes. You can't have it both ways, either none of us pay taxes or we all pay taxes. I prefer not to pay....GO REPUBLICANS!!!!!!

  • smdrn Nov 23, 12:20 p.m.

    Part of the gov't problem is all the estimating that they do. They estimate the amount of sales tax they think they are losing. Most people buy online because the prices are better and it can be delivered directly to their homes. Not to avoid sales tax. And it's not just what you buy online that NC wants to tax you on...it's everything you buy out of state and bring back to use here. So you can pay another state's sales tax, and NC wants to tax you again. Sorry, sounds like NC is stealing from us. Maybe if NC stops taxing us on our state refund checks, since we've already paid tax on that money and that is what we overpaid, maybe I'll start filling out the use tax section.

  • wayneboyd Nov 23, 12:03 p.m.

    I live by one simple rule...If I didn't need it today. I certainly can do without it tomorrow.

  • piene2 Nov 23, 11:52 a.m.

    "Remember that when you do not get your next raise. I hate to disappoint you but I do pay my sales tax and have a copy of every single tax return I have ever filed to prove it. piene2

    Sanctimonious drivel... Taxed enough already.
    ripetomatoes"

    So you pick and choose which laws you obey and what you steal. There are a lot of stories in here every day about people just like that. They are always treated very harshly by the posters here.

  • ripetomatoes Nov 23, 11:39 a.m.

    Remember that when you do not get your next raise.
    I hate to disappoint you but I do pay my sales tax and have a copy of every single tax return I have ever filed to prove it.
    piene2

    Sanctimonious drivel...
    Taxed enough already.

  • piene2 Nov 23, 10:56 a.m.

    "I would think that all of the people advocating higher taxes would line up to pay these additional sales taxes. If they do not, then they are full of hypocrisy.
    Phenylalanine"

    I hate to disappoint you but I do pay my sales tax and have a copy of every single tax return I have ever filed to prove it.

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