Some time ago, I wrote a post called The Taxman Commeth about the onerous requirements of the New Jersey taxation folks when I wanted to sell some books at a talk I was giving in that state and asked how I was to submit any resulting sales tax. (Normally, I can get a local bookstore to take care of the sales and tax issues, but this time, there wasn’t one available) In the Garden State, it turns out, I would be required to register with the state and submit tax information for my business prior to the event, then, after the one-shot event, submit new forms to close out my previous registration (after sending in whatever sales tax I collected). In addition to the red tape, and the sales tax itself, I would be required to pay a fee of $150! I would have to sell books to at least half the people at the event just to break even. I decided to not sell at the event. I simply referred interested people to an on line bookseller and hoped they followed through.
So you can understand why, when faced with a similar event in Maryland, I approached my home state’s tax people with some trepidation. After all, Maryland is not exactly a low-tax state, nor is it known for avoiding fees, ad-ons, or Kafka-like compliance requirements on occasion. So, imagine my surprise when the nice lady at the tax office took my information on the phone and said they would be sending me a simple form to fill out and return with the appropriate sales tax once I had completed the one-time event. What’s more, there was NO CHARGE for this form or for any processing! The form duly arrived and I used it as stated, sending in the sales tax, but nothing additional. The whole experience was painless and sensible. So while I seldom find myself singing the praises of very much in the Maryland Tax Code, they at least got this part right. If you want people to pay taxes and pay them fully, make the experience as rational, simple, and easy as possible. Don’t punish them for trying to send you money.
(Plus, when people are voluntarily trying to comply, don’t have the gall to charge them an onerous fee for the privilege!)