News of a 12-year-old boy being investigated by the Idaho State Tax Commission has sparked a swift response from some members of the state Legislature. One senator is asserting that the staff at the state’s tax commission is too large, while a member of the House of Representatives is suggesting that it is time to reform the state’s tax laws.
“I read with interest the requirement of a 12-year-old boy to collect sales tax,” wrote Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, in a letter addressed to the commissioners, a copy of which was obtained by IdahoReporter.com. “I find this offensive.”
Thayn’s concerns center on an incident that reportedly happened in the Pocatello area involving a 12-year-old boy who operated a roadside fruit stand during the summer months. According to reports from the Associated Press and the Idaho State Journal, located in Pocatello, the son of Jason Weeks wanted to purchase a motorcycle, so Weeks encouraged his son to earn money to pay for it.
According to the Idaho State Journal, that’s when Weeks’ son began selling raspberries from a stand on Yellowstone Avenue in Pocatello, near a Red Wing shoe store location. The boy’s entrepreneurial ambition eventually led to a confrontation from an official with the Idaho State Tax Commission demanding 6 percent of the sales revenues. Idaho’s current sales tax rate is 6 percent.
“We should be encouraging young people to become productive,” Thayn said in his letter to the commission. While noting his suspicion that there must be “something missing” from the story that would justify employees of the commission spending time investigating the child, Thayn added that “what it tells me, is that there are too many employees at the tax commission. I would certainly like to know some solution to this situation so that it does not happen again.”
Liz Rodosovich, spokesperson for the commission, defended the commission’s action as merely enforcing state law. “The Tax Commission is charged with enforcing Idaho law, which states that retail sales are taxable,” she told IdahoReporter.com when contacted. “The law doesn’t discriminate between sellers.”
Rodosovich declined to offer specific details about the incident involving the boy from Pocatello, except to note that the state government employee involved in the incident works for the tax commission’s collections division, and is not an official tax auditor. “To put things in perspective, there are currently about 55,000 seller’s permit holders in Idaho and another 9,000 temporary seller’s permits are issued annually,” she said. “These sellers collect tax from the buyer separately from the sales price, and then pass the tax on to the state.”
The Idaho State Tax Commission has a history of confrontations with young children. In October of 2010, for example, an employee of the commission attempted to shut down a pumpkin stand operated by two children in Lewiston, ages 4 and 6.
“We should look into letting children make at least some sales without sales tax,” Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, told IdahoReporter.com. Burgoyne, a member of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, said that “the law as currently written could be costing the state and our children more than the value of the tax, and interfering with our children’s opportunity to learn valuable skills and lessons through their entrepreneurship. There may be a way to do this which is not costly or unfair to others who must pay the tax.”
IdahoReporter.com contacted Rep. Gary Collins, R-Nampa, chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, but he declined to comment on the Pocatello incident pending his own investigation. Calls to state tax commissioner Ken Roberts seeking comment were not returned.
Sen. Steve Thayn’s full letter to the tax commission appears below.
I read with interest the requirement of a 12-year-old boy to collect sales tax. I find this offensive. We should be encouraging young people to become productive. Surely, there is something missing from this story that justifies the time spent by a tax commission employee’s time engaging in bringing into tax collection the fruits stand of a 12-year-old boy. What it tells me, is that there are too many employees at the tax commission.
I would certainly like to know some solution to this situation so that it does not happen again.
Senator Steven P. Thayn
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0081