That money belongs to government, darn it!

Tennessee politicians won’t give up on taxing out-of-state Internet sales. Miffed that online shoppers can make tax-free purchases from vendors who aren’t located in Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslem wants to be able to force retailers in other states to collect revenue for Tennessee’s government. He laments that government is missing out on an extra $450M in revenue annually that it would be collecting if those purchases were made in Tennessee.

I get so tired of this. Government acts as though there’s a giant stack of unclaimed dollar bills sitting just outside the department of revenue’s grasp, and if government could somehow get its hands on that money, Tennessee would be that much better off. I mean, just think what all good could come of that. Why, we could use a windfall of this magnitude to help the children, the poor, the schools, healthcare.

Politicians claim it’s unfair to Tennessee businesses because they have to charge sales tax on in-state purchases, but out-of-state vendors don’t have to, thereby making purchasing from them a little bit cheaper. Of course, the same could also be said of Tennessee businesses not having to charge sales tax on Internet purchases made by customers from other states, so as far as I’m concerned, that’s a zero-sum game.

So spare me the drama, please. That’s $450M of our money that belongs to us and does not have government’s name on it. We get taxed plenty as it is, at the federal, state, county, and city levels, and I’ll be darned if the governor or anyone else is going to make me feel guilty for saving a few dollars on purchasing online from a vendor who isn’t in Tennessee. They can lament all they want about this lost opportunity — as they see it — to tax us more, but whatever extra money the state thinks it’s entitled to isn’t free money. It’s money straight out of our pockets. No one’s life is going to get any better if Tennessee starts collecting additional revenue from Internet purchases. It just means we’ll have a little less money at our disposal.

It’s not your money, Governor Haslem.


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