Tax confusion and dishonesty


To the Editor:

I sent the following letter was sent to Senator Dan Wolf and Representative Timothy Madden:

There was a time when the imposition of a new tax required a corollary between the item being taxed and the service to be funded. Cigarette taxes originally funded smoking cessation programs, ad campaigns to discourage teens from smoking, and a bit of money to pay for health problems caused by smoking.

Now, cigarettes must also pay for roads and bridges to be maintained. We can no longer afford for cigarette smokers to cease smoking.

I am in favor of safe roads and bridges. I would like an efficient and expanded public transportation system. I only wish the state legislature had had the courage to generate the revenue from the activities that create the need — and will ultimately reap the benefit of a comprehensive transportation overhaul. While raising the funds through the gas tax alone would have been unpopular, at least it would have been honest.

Taxes and fees are mushrooming in Massachusetts, the system becoming ever more obfuscated as it becomes impossible to connect the dots between the problems that need fixing with where the money is coming from and why you are taking it from some people, but not others, in the first place. Everyone should be concerned about the expanded sales tax levied on software consultants. Really, who will be next?

Our sales tax is complicated and capricious. Children’s novelty costumes are tax-exempt but when the child is sick you should plan on paying sales tax on all over-the-counter medication. Breath-freshening candies are tax-exempt, but you will pay an additional 6.25 percent for antacids. Sewing supplies are taxed, sewing goods are not. (Don’t ask me to explain). You are in luck if you play tennis or require a jogging bra, not so much if you bowl or play golf. For some reason baby oil is essential, baby powder is not. The list goes on.

While Massachusetts likes to think of itself as a progressive-minded state, the insidious creep of tax fungi is regressive and an assault on our daily lives. Rather than expanding the sales tax to include Internet purchases, it would have been refreshing if you had considered abolishing the sales tax for all items under $1,000. Just the idea makes me a little giddy — life would have gotten easier for so many of us.

Writing this letter has given me a headache. I’m going to see if my physician will call in a tax-exempt prescription for ibuprofen.

Juleann VanBelle

West Tisbury