Maryland sales tax due on in-state sales,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Maryland sales tax due on in-state sales, not on out-of-state

I am pleased with the public discussion that has followed my article on untaxed Internet sales published in The Sun June 30. People should be talking about this issue, whether they agree with me or not, because it affects all of us.

People understand the basic issue of creating a level playing field for both local merchants and Internet sellers. Some of them just don't agree with it, and I don't understand that.

Should the mom-and-pop bookstore have to charge 5 percent sales tax when the Internet giants halfway across the country who sell to Marylanders don't?

Why should the local businesses that are the cornerstone of Maryland economy be penalized by unfair competition for staying in and serving the community?

If nothing is done, my office estimates that by 2003, $148.5 million a year in sales tax revenues presently collected by local merchants on local sales will be lost to untaxed Internet sales. That will be 5 percent of the total sales tax by then.

If we don't collect these taxes, we'll have to make them up from another tax source, or people will have to do without services they need.

The people who disagree with me say that we have plenty of money now, so why do we need it? Times may be good now, but the economy goes in cycles. I've seen it happen. During the next economic downturn, we'll need that money and we won't have it, unless we do something today. We can't meet the challenges of a 21st-century economy with a 20th-century tax system.

I have joined public officials in other states in trying to create a simplified and streamlined sales tax system for both online sellers and local merchants.

William Donald Schaefer, Annapolis

The writer is comptroller of Maryland.

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (June 30) claims that Internet businesses do not collect sales taxes, which is untrue.

Any Maryland-based business (Internet or not) that sells a good or service to a Maryland resident or nonresident within the borders of Maryland has to collect the sales tax.

As an Internet business owner, if I sell a good or service and deliver it to an out-of-state customer, no Maryland sales tax is collected. There is no lost tax revenue because all taxable sales are taxed just like at any other store in Maryland.

Besides, this is how mail order catalogs have worked for more than 50 years across the country, and nobody ever cried about that.

Joe Ferrari, Millersville

Application fee paid, child support still due

The Sun recently printed an article about Maximus Inc. and the good job it is doing collecting child support money for mothers in Baltimore ("Child support collectors win praise for improving system," June 1).

I am one of those moms in the city. And I'm sure I am not alone when I say that the company was more interested in my $25 application fee than it was in trying to collect any child support for me.

When I went to my first appointment, I told them I had already had my court order. They were not interested in that, just the check for their services. About a month went by. One morning a person showed up at my door with a court order.

I called them and asked why. They said so that I could get child support set up. I had already done that. They said that I needed to bring them a copy of the order. I did so.

Every other day since then, I call to find out what is going on with my case. Then I received a call telling me they were setting up an appointment with my ex-husband, and they wanted to know where he worked. Five months of no answers and no support payments, and they now want to know where he works!

I gave them the information. I am still waiting to see anything done. I know they are busy, and there are a lot of people to help. But if they would just do their job instead of grabbing the $25 check, then maybe I would have a child support payment by now.

I feel if I screamed at the top of my lungs, no one would hear my cry. I have tried everything that I could think of to get my voice heard. I am sure there are a lot of moms who feel the same way I do. I know a few of them who are still waiting after years to get their payments.

So I am pleading for someone to help me and all of the other moms with voices that cannot be heard.

Christina Burns, Baltimore

Lobbyists, legislators lack concern, not awareness

Maryland Common Cause director Kathleen Skullney expressed dismay over how little awareness state legislators and lobbyists have about how their dealings with one another affect the rest of us ("Ways of lobbyists exposed again," Perspective, July 16).

But it's not awareness they lack; it's concern.

As Dickens once said of British parliament members engaged in similar shenanigans, their business was strictly with one another, having nothing to do with any sense of duty to "an abstraction called a People."

The point is that we, the people, are an abstraction to the Annapolis insiders whose business is strictly with one another, and whether their dealings help or hurt the public well-being is irrelevant to them. The only thing that is relevant to them (granting some exceptions) is their own well-being.

This is the nature of the beast we have created in the name of a barely fettered capitalism, and it is not likely to change until the power of money over legislators and the legislative process is seriously addressed.

Howard Bluth, Baltimore

Restaurateur Wolf sets admirable example

I want to congratulate Peter Jensen on a well-written and inspiring piece about Cindy Wolf ("A taste for living," July16).

I am acquainted with Ms. Wolf and her husband/business partner Tony Foreman from frequenting their brilliant establishment, Charleston, where my husband and I have been eating from its inception in December 1997. In all that time, I was unaware of Ms. Wolf's health problems until I saw the ad for Franklin Square Hospital in The Sun several months ago. I was shocked.

In all of my contact with Ms. Wolf, she appeared the consummate professional with not a care in the world other than what was going on in her busy kitchen and pleasant dining rooms.

In an age where people tend to wear their illnesses on their sleeves like badges of honor, Ms. Wolf has conducted herself with a quiet dignity that speaks volumes of her character. She sets a brave example for our community and our society.

Baltimore is extremely fortunate to have talented and admirable individuals such as Ms. Wolf and Mr. Foreman. Kudos to The Sun for finding them.

Paula Smith, Reisterstown

Turnaround provides aid to abuse victims

The article on victims of abuse ("Joe Palczynski, The last bloody chapter," July 3) mentioned the abuse hotline (410-828-6390) and names and numbers of shelters. You should also mention Turnaround Inc. in Baltimore (410-377-8111).

The organization has been around for 21 years, formerly known as Second Step. They provide help with emergency shelter, crisis counseling and other services.

I personally know many people who have benefited from this organization.

Ellensue Levinson Jeffers, Pikesville

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