Ed Murray, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma is trying to educate consumers about a tax that gets woefully under-collected every year. It's known as the Consumer Use Tax. It's a sales tax that is not collected by online vendors who do not have a physical presence in the state, but one online shoppers in Oklahoma are still obligated to pay.
"We realize taxes aren't something people want to pay, but it is the law," said Paula Ross, the Communications Director for the Oklahoma Tax Commission. "And the services, for instance, especially the cities, are having a rough time making budgets, schools, roads, that type of thing. Taxpayers need to realize that's the money that helps their city survive."
A new law passed by the state legislature in June is aimed at increasing awareness about the Consumer Use Tax. The state has even started airing commercials drawing attention to the tax. Lawmakers hope if people know what they're obligated to pay, the consumer tax collection will increase from $3 million in 2009 to $30 million this fiscal year.
"If you buy something online and they are not charging sales tax, then you do owe sales tax. Period," Ross said.
OTC has tried to make paying the tax easier. The commission has put a form on its website that consumers can use for each purchase. People can also pay the tax all at once on line 20 of their income taxes using a worksheet for the actual amount, or a table that estimates the tax.
OTC is also trying to convince online retailers to collect the state tax so consumers don't have to make the calculations themselves.
"We've made a list of the top 500 retailers that don't have a presence in Oklahoma that should be charging sales tax, and we are corresponding with them," said Ross. "We've already had a few that have agreed to charge the tax."