Collecting the sales tax for my charter business has nothing to do with cutting corners to try to jimmy a slight edge over my competition. It has everything to do with how the maximum tax is applied to various purchases around Homer.
The reason the sales tax on hotel rooms is a non-issue here is that we don't have $1,000 rooms. We sure do have $1,000 fishing charters.
I personally do not care what the sales tax is. My customers pay it, and it is easy to collect in our business. I also don't think it will affect my business one way or another. I do care that one segment of the purchasing public will be singled out to pay a higher tax for a single purchase.
Merlin did not mention in his article that in California and New Orleans there is no maximum sales tax. So on a $1,000 purchase that tax would be 7.75 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Anyone traveling to Costa Rica knows the sales tax there is 16.67 percent and no maximum sales tax.
Not so in Homer. Here everything is based on single sales with a maximum sales tax. The new proposal states that services like mine would have to treat a group of purchases on a charter differently than a group of purchases at Spenard Builders Supply.
The tax committee wants to say that the service I provide will be treated differently than the product of same value offered for sale by another business in town. This is strictly a matter of semantics. My service is my product.
Merlin writes that X number of dollars would have been raised if the sales tax on guiding businesses had been collected differently. I want to point out that if we had no sales tax maximum like they do in California or New Orleans or Costa Rica, the tax dollars raised would be more on the line of tens of millions, not the small potatoes that will be raised by this tax change. It is all a matter of perspective.
Let's say that a local person charters my boat the Irish in July for a family group to go fishing. The price is $2,500. She wants to take the family out as a gift, and she pays for everything -- a family reunion type of trip. We do lots of that. We tell her she can take a maximum of 22 passengers. She pays one check and tells us there will be only 18 passengers.
We don't care how many people are on board as long as it is not more than 22. One purchase, one invoice and one payment, with a maximum sales tax of $27.50. The new proposed change would have required a tax of $137.50.
She could have gone to a Homer business and bought each of these same 18 people microwave ovens for $138.88 each, paid for them all at once as a single purchase and paid a maximum tax of $27.50. For her to pay the same tax on that purchase as the borough wants her to pay on the charter she would have had to go in and out of that local business 18 times and make 18 different purchases.
Our company collects vast amounts of sales tax each year. And we will collect whatever is called for. It just seems that for some reason this particular segment of the business community has been singled out for special attention.
I can rent a car in Homer for two months for $1,250, put as many people in it as I want and only pay a maximum tax of $27.50. I can take friends or employees to Land's End for a great dinner with wine and spend $1,500 and only pay $27.50 in tax. I can't take my friends out on a fishing charter though without paying $137.50 in tax?
Is that fair?
Make the tax the same for everybody on every purchase. Stop trying to micromanage each segment of the business community.