Have you ever wondered why we have laws?
Laws don’t exist just to punish dishonest people. They also exist to keep honest people honest.
That isn’t to say people would be dishonest, or dishonorable, without laws forcing them to do otherwise, except for one thing: They would be.
Want proof? Let’s have a show of hands: How many of you have purchased something from a Web site, and at the end of the year have on your own written a check to the state to pay the sales taxes on that item?
I see Al Gray’s lonely hand up. Don’t feel bad; I didn’t raise mine, either.
Few people know you’re actually required to pay sales taxes on such purchases, though ignorance of the law is no excuse. But payment is voluntary, with no random audits to catch scofflaws.
Understandably, that system doesn’t bring in much money. Just imagine what Walmart would look like if paying at the register was on the honor system, and no one tried to stop shoplifters. Even people who like to think of themselves as honest might not resist the lure of a new flat-screen TV, or at least a jar of pickles.
We know that people will not pay a tax unless forced to do so. We also know that an increasing number of people shop in stores only to get a look at an item before they go home, fire up their iPad or smartphone and order it from Amazon, tax-free.
There’s even a name for that: “Showrooming.” It drives brick-and-mortar retailers crazy. They pay taxes and licenses and salaries to keep open the doors of those “showrooms,” while being undercut by Internet retailers who don’t have to withhold sales taxes from people who won’t voluntarily pay them.
That’s the aim of part of Gov. Nathan Deal’s tax reforms, approved last week by lawmakers. Among them is a requirement that retailers charge applicable sales taxes on purchases made in Georgia, and remit that money to the state.
Deal expects the money to help make up for a cut in car taxes, among other things. Whether it actually pans out that way is anyone’s guess.
Deal and approving lawmakers will catch grief over this portion of the bill from people who are anti-tax under any circumstances. It’s a pretty safe bet, though, that most people won’t even know about it.
That is, they won’t know until they visit a brick-and-mortar “showroom,” look over an item and head home to order it online – and only then find out the state is going to require them to be honest.
I’ve long advocated naming Evans Towne Center Park for Ryan Clark, the Lakeside High graduate who was the first person killed in the Virginia Tech massacre while trying to help the student who would become the second victim.
One of our online commenters, Riverman, made a better suggestion: Name the new combined school system/county park behind Lakeside after Clark.
I’ve started the ball rolling with the blessing of Clark’s mother. If you like the idea, please contact your school board member or county commissioner to express support. Thanks.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/