Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

In the Jamestown Sun … The AP had an article on Internet sales and lost tax revenue for the states who are feeling an economic pinch. Amazon and others are mentioned, which raised my eyebrows. Over the years, including this one, I have ordered items from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sears and others.

As I recall, the ONLY time a North Dakota state tax was NOT included (as a line item) was a camera purchase from B & H Photo in New York. The rule, as I understood it, was if they had a physical presence in our state, sales tax was mandatory. This raises my curiosity: was the tax charge a clever revenue enhancement?

Do you know if our state tax commissioner actually receives the tax collected from Internet sales? Does he have a list of companies who do collect it and send to the state?

Robert M. Brown

Jamestown 

Thanks for writing! I contacted Tax Commissioner Cory Fong. Here’s what he said:

“Thank you for your email requesting information about Internet retailers and sales tax collections.

“Your understanding of the rule is correct. Retailers that have a physical presence in North Dakota are required by law to register and collect our sales taxes. Even though Internet sellers that do not have a physical presence in North Dakota are not required to collect our tax, we do have some that do voluntarily register, collect and remit sales taxes to our office.

“The sales tax statutes have confidentiality provisions that prohibit the state Tax Department from disclosing information about sales tax accounts. Because of those provisions, we cannot provide a list of Internet sellers that do or do not collect our taxes.

“Retailers that must collect tax are required to register with our office, and we issue a sales tax permit to all companies that complete the registration process. State laws require retailers to display the permit so customers can verify the retailer is authorized to collect tax. Unfortunately, displaying a permit is not effective for a remote business that operates outside the customer’s home state.

“You do have the right to ask a retailer if they have a valid North Dakota sales tax permit number. Sales tax permit numbers can be verified on our website. To verify a permit, go here.

“If you enter a valid permit number in the search, the response will tell you the number is valid and the name of the registered retailer.

“I’m sorry we cannot be more direct regarding specific retailers. I hope this information is helpful in response to your questions.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

One thought on “Today’s Ask Your Government

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