Thumbs Up/Down - April 12, 2013
INTERNET TAX RULING
Thumbs Up: The tide may be shifting to help local retailers who are on an unfair playing field with online-only companies that don't have to pay state sales taxes. Last week, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the state can collect sales tax from out-of-state retailers. It rejected claims by Amazon.com and Overstock.com that the tax law violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause. "The bottom line is that if a vendor is paying New York residents to actively solicit business in this state, there is no reason why that vendor should not shoulder the appropriate tax burden," wrote Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote. We've heard from local business owners who make a valid point that out-of-state sellers should have to pay state taxes just as they do. One study found that Internet-only businesses derive as much as 30 percent of their sales due to this unfair tax advantage. Minnesota needs a strong law that levels the playing field so local mom-and-pop businesses aren't losing customers to behemoth online-only retailers that are skirting around sales tax requirements.
Thumbs Up: Massman Automation Designs deserves a thumbs up for saving the Ribfest event. The Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Board, faced with limited staffing and funding, decided late last year to cancel the event. It was just too much for the Chamber to take on. When it found out the news, Massman stepped up to the plate, literally, and offered to pay an independent contractor to help with the event. Ribfest, a popular Awake the Lakes tradition for the last nine years, will take place on Saturday, May 25. It's a fun way for the community to get together, celebrate the start of summer, engage in a friendly competition and bite into some tasty ribs cooked by local businesses. Summer in the lakes area wouldn't be the same without it.
TAX REFUND CROOKS
Thumbs Down: Beware of identity thieves who are looking for ways to steal the money you've got coming from Uncle Sam. Tax refund thefts are up 60 percent over last year and is the fastest growing form of identity theft, according to Harold Moldoff, a volunteer "fraud fighter" with AARP. He said most scammers work by phone and by e-mail, and usually entice victims with a money-making proposition. "'We'll get you $80 in extra refund if you complete the following customer survey for the IRS,'" he explained. "It's a scam! The IRS does not do that." Moldoff says consumers should know that the IRS only makes initial contact by U.S. mail. It never uses e-mail or the phone for that purpose. If you think you have been a victim of tax refund fraud, you should notify the IRS.
Thumbs Down: If you write a letter to the editor, please remember to include your full name, address and a telephone number so we'll be able to contact you if we have any questions about the letter. Only the name of your town will be printed. We received a letter the other week from an Alexandria resident who wrote about the gay marriage issue but it contained several misstatements. He wrote, for example, that a majority of Minnesotans voted against same-sex marriages in the last election. That wasn't the case. The proposed amendment was whether marriage should be constitutionally defined as solely between one man and one woman and it was voted down. Unfortunately, there was no way of contacting the writer because he included no address or phone number.
PARKING LOT POTHOLES
Thumbs Down: Whoever is responsible for maintaining the sorry excuse for a parking lot at the Alexandria Post Office should hang their heads in shame. It's just plain horrible. These aren't your everyday potholes. These are deep, jarring ruts that can't be easily navigated. They're causing traffic snarl-ups, frustrated drivers and forced realignments. It seems to happen every spring. The Alexandria City Council listened to yet another complaint about it at Monday night's meeting and agreed to have staff contact the post office to find out how the problem can be resolved. That's a good start. We hope it ends with filled-up holes.
RUDENESS AT A CONCERT
Thumbs Up/Down: The Abbey Road Band's tribute show to the Beatles was a crowd-pleaser last Sunday, except for those who missed key parts of it by walking out early. "When the band announced their final song and started singing, many people stood up and started for the doors," noted one concert-goer. "I was so embarrassed because the last song was a long production piece and then the band graciously played an encore. Why do people have to leave concerts early and make Alexandria seem like such a rude community?"