BANGOR (AP) – A two-pack-a-day smoker from Greenfield who’s been ordering her cigarettes online got something in the mail she wasn’t expecting: A $2,000 bill from the state for unpaid sales and use taxes.

Robin Brayman, 44, said she had no idea she had to declare her mail-order purchases to the state and pay Maine’s $2-per-pack excise tax and 5 percent sales or use tax. Brayman said the Web site through which she ordered advertised the cigarettes as tax-free.

Maine Revenue Services has been cracking down on unpaid sales and use taxes. It gets names from sales and shipment records from online tobacco companies. Brayman is one of roughly 2,400 residents who got bills for unpaid cigarette taxes.

“I have rent to pay and a teenage daughter,” said Brayman. “They’re picking on smokers. It’s unfair.”

Stanley Campbell of Maine Revenue Services acknowledged that he’s been hearing from upset taxpayers, but pointed out that the state needs to keep online tobacco sellers “on a level playing field” with those who operate in more traditional over-the-counter fashion.

A carton of cigarettes that cost Brayman $29.45 online costs nearly $48 at a Bangor store.

Maine law gives cigarette shoppers a month to declare their purchases and pay taxes on them. The taxes can be paid all at once, although those with larger bills can set up payment plans. In Brayman’s case, the state is withholding her annual tax and rent refund check and applying that to her debt.

A 1949 state law requires anyone who sells and ships cigarettes to report the names and addresses of resident customers.

as well as the brand and amount sold, to the state.



Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com

AP-ES-09-06-06 1658EDT


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