By Melanie Posey
MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - More and more shoppers are finding that perfect Christmas gift online these days. Besides the convenience of shopping from the comforts of home and finding more options, shoppers say another benefit of shopping online is not having to pay sales tax. In Alabama, that is against tax laws.
"When you buy something online, if you're not charged a sales tax, then it's your responsibility to pay a use tax," says Lewis Easterly of the Alabama Department of Revenue.
That use tax is four cents on every dollar, the same as Alabama's state sales tax. If consumers aren't charged the money when they purchase the product, they are supposed to declare it on their state income tax. But if they do not, Easterly admits, there really isn't a penalty.
"We have 1,170 employees in the revenue department. We can't police it. The entire system is a voluntary tax system and we want people to be educated and when they are, they will fulfill their responsibilities," Easterly says.
The use tax is specifically earmarked for the state's education trust fund. Easterly says not paying it not only takes away from children's learning. But most of all, he says, it's about integrity.
"To me, integrity means when I'm driving down the road, I don't throw a McDonald's sack with a coke out the window. I take it home and put it in the trash. A lot of people don't have this integrity. If you have it, you will do the right thing."