Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I escape destination-based sales tax for the indoor play gym

If you want to stay sane, avoid this blog post and don't click on any of the links.

I have no choice but to descend into the void of the SSUTA, and I am slowly going mad.


Washington state, in an attempt to collect what it believes are "fair" sales tax revenues from online sales, began a destination-based sales tax last year in July.

SSUTA stands hilariously for Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. If you want to take a gander at how streamlined, download the PDF of the agreement from this link. Honey, 142 pages and four appendices is not the definition of streamlined.

What this means for me is an accounting headache that makes migraines look like the gentle brush of a pussycat's tail against your cheek.

Last year I had to find all our Washington state sales, then send the Seattle sales tax rate (9%) to the government. OK, it's a chunk out of my pocket, since the venue we use doesn't allow us to collect the sales tax, but it was a mostly (ahem) streamlined process.

But this year, this year...

I'll spare you all the details, but suffice it to say that I have to comb our records for each transaction that was shipped to a Washington state customer. Then I have to copy the information about that sale into a spreadsheet, then enter the address into a state database to find the sales tax rate for that location. Not just the ZIP, mind you, because apparently it's more mind-numbingly complicated than that. Then I have to report each of those sales to the government, calculating the appropriate sales tax of each district and paying same. It's all in the 8-9% range, so you'd think I could just overpay it all at 9% -- but, no, that would be illegal.

All this would be easier if the venue we sell most of our DVDs through would allow us to (a) download a year's worth of order reports at a time or (b) search the orders by state. Neither is possible. Of course, it would be even more helpful if they'd let us collect sales tax in the first place!

Randy Smythe at My Blog Utopia! has a good idea for governments to just implement a flat internet sales tax and establish a national clearinghouse to distribute the proceeds to the states. I know, it's fun to get things online sales-tax-free, but it's actually illegal -- if you're not already, you're supposed to be paying use tax on all that jazz. A flat tax would actually streamline the process, for buyers and sellers.

All right, that's my home-business rant for the day. So that Sam could get some work of his own done this morning, I took the kidlet to an indoor play gym, where he cried and cried over a toy fire truck that apparently wouldn't do what he wanted. We left it behind and came home, and he went straight down for a nap, leaving me no choice but to tackle our state and city business taxes and the stupid, stupid SSUTA -- and it's all due January 31.

That's four days.


Side note: When does possessiveness start? Mikko still looks at other kids like they're large furless dogs, amusing and interesting but not worth interacting with. toddler play gymHe enjoyed a ride-in fire truck at the play gym as well. (For those who don't know what an indoor play gym is, around here it's a regular old gym at a community center with a bunch of big toys scattered about and a $2 charge to get in.) Mikko spent most of his time in the ride-in truck until he left it behind for a second and a 2-ish-year-old girl swooped in. He sort of tried to get it back, but didn't seem fazed that she wouldn't get out. He just toddled away and began looking at the (communal) baby dolls she'd left on the ground when she'd seized his truck. He picked one up and brought it to me. Meanwhile, the girl kept reciting, "Mine, mine, mine," and then she said, "My baby," and came over to retrieve the doll from the floor near me. Again, Mikko didn't care and was showing no aggression toward her, and in a couple seconds the doll was once again on the ground since the girl didn't actually want it -- she just didn't want anyone else to have it.

Is it inevitable? Will he become the mine-mine-mine child in a few months? Is it innate, learned from parents, learned from peers? For now I'm enjoying his lack of selflessness (quite literal -- for I don't think he has a concept of self and other yet).

As a proactive encouragement, I'm trying not to be mine-mine-mine myself. Except for eyeglasses and liquor, kiddo, everything mine is yours.

Accounting photo courtesy of Vangelis Thomaidis on stock.xchng, and indoor toddler play gym photo from Seattle Parks -- that's a good link if you live in the area; if not but inclement weather similarly keeps you and your little ones off the swings all winter, see if your community has comparable drop-in programs


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