R. Sabine: Against the sales tax


This is in response to Sun Journal editorials of Jan. 26 and Feb. 1.

Sometimes intent is uncertain; the editorial of Jan. 26 appears to favor a sales tax and cautions against sales tax exemptions, explaining that Maine “. . . is a national leader in exempting goods and services from its sales tax.” It further suggests that reduced state government revenue could be made up by “. . . increasing the sales tax . . .”

The editorial of Feb. 1 advocated increasing taxes on products that contribute to poor health. These would include, among others, Twinkies, cigarettes and booze. The idea behind the increased taxes is to raise additional revenue to fund the increasing costs of health care.

What is uncertain, but easily inferred, is that increasing the costs of these unhealthy products will decrease their use, or at the least make the consumers of those products pay a greater portion of the taxes whose ultimate spending destination is state-provided health care.

It would be reasonable to believe that both those editorials favor additional sales taxes.

I am not opposed to taxes; sometimes even high taxes are necessary. However, I am opposed to wasteful spending, and equally opposed to wasteful and costly tax collection.

It would be difficult to imagine a less efficient tax than the state sales tax. It requires increasing numbers of our citizens to be unpaid tax collectors. It is unbelievably complicated, with numerous and continuing inventive inclusions and an increasing number of exemptions. The sales tax makes necessary the otherwise unnecessary employment of additional state employees to continually interpret, monitor, collect and enforce compliance.

There are already too many taxes. There are taxes on everything from potatoes to blueberries, and there are stealth taxes disguised with other names.

I cannot help but wonder why there are so many, and I am reminded of the quotation by the 18th century French Minister of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert: “The art of taxation consists in plucking the goose to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”

My own intent, just to be clear, is to advocate against the sales tax and suggest instead that the lost revenue be collected from the marvelously efficient (and very visible) state income tax.

Richard Sabine, Lewiston