May 12, 2010

GEORGE SMITH: Expanded sales tax hits us where it hurts — just about everywhere

The only thing standing between you and a massive expansion of the state sales tax is your vote on June 8 on the people’s veto of Maine’s new tax reform law that lowers income taxes and increases sales taxes.

They’re going to tax your fun, with the new sales tax applied to movies, lectures, concerts, festivals, circuses and boat, auto, camping, home, flower, animal and antique shows.

Do you like the horses? The extended sales tax rides onto tickets to racetracks and fairgrounds (except, of course, for agricultural fairs — no sense riling up the farmers).

Only skiers and golfers — led by the well-known golfer in the Blaine House — won’t pay the new tax on their games. But the kids and families playing mini-golf will get hit.

Got a pet? You’ll pony up more money for pet sitting, exercising, training, grooming and boarding.

Going to a Sea Dogs game? Tickets to all sports events will be taxed (except school sports).

Maine guides will have to start collecting the sales tax on all their customers’ trips, too.

Planning to enjoy an evening at a strip club? Yes, exotic dancing will be subject to the new sales tax. If you’re planning to stuff a dollar in that dancer’s G-string, don’t forget the 5 percent sales tax, and good luck finding a place for the nickel.

Are you an advocate for your constitutional rights to firearms? Perhaps you’ll be a bit concerned that gun repairs will be subject to the new sales tax, wondering what information the repair shop will have to keep on you and your guns to satisfy the state revenue police?

Not long ago, I read a piece in the newsletter of the Maine Tourism Association that sharply criticized the tax reform proposal. Now I know why. The sales tax on meals and lodging increases to 8.5 percent. And the sales tax on car rentals goes up 25 percent. Sock it to those tourists!

Oops, a slight problem there. Mainers pay 70 percent of all money spent on restaurant meals. Sock it to ourselves!

The sales tax on liquor sold at restaurants and bars also will increase to 8.5 percent. You can’t even drown your sorrows.

Got a sweet tooth? The tax on candy will go up 70 percent! Those politicians are sweet talkers, aren’t they?

Well, you probably spend too much time talking on the phone, so perhaps the new sales tax on telecommunications services will cause you to reduce that wasted talk.

They’ll tax car washing, too, but I think I’ve got that beat with a local dealer’s free car wash for customers. If the car wash is free, there can’t be any sales tax applied. Can there?

But I’ll be hard-pressed to avoid repairs when they are needed. We’ll pay the new tax on car repairs, vehicle towing, boat mooring and boat motor repairs, but only if the motor is not attached to the boat. The fellow who fixes my boat motor will need a bigger lot, because I’m bringing the motor in on the boat in the future.

The new sales tax also will touch down on repairs of musical instruments, electronic equipment, lawn and garden equipment, computer hardware, and more. They’re even taxing history, with the new tax applied to tickets to historical sites.

Think you’re smart, heading out of state to a Sox game to avoid Maine’s tax on fun? Well, that bus tour to Beantown will cost 5 percent more!

Jugglers, ventriloquists, comedians and clowns will be taxed, and that’s not funny. I hope Maine’s funniest guy, Gary Crocker, can still attract customers with the 5 percent markup. Cleaning of the house, furniture and rugs, art restoration, rental of storage units, helicopter and hot air balloon rides, bar cover charges — the list goes on and on.

Helping hold down those often-cited high costs of doing business in Maine, the Legislature thoughtfully extended the sales tax to leasing of office equipment, service contracts and courier services.

I’m down the list to number 86 when my blood boils over as I discover that when the butcher cuts up my deer venison next fall, he’ll have to charge me a sales tax on my own meat! You can’t even hide your money in a safe deposit box, because they’ll tax that, too.

Is this enough to cause you to move out of Maine? Before you cross the Kittery Bridge, don’t forget to pay the new sales tax on moving expenses.

George Smith is executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. He lives in Mount Vernon and can be reached at george@samcef.org.

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