Local stores illegally charge tax on U.S., state flags...

DESERT STORM -- Notes from the home front

January 29, 1991

Local stores illegally charge tax on U.S., state flags, veteran 0) says

Walter Salmon of Hunt Valley is seeing red over the red, white and blue.

The World War II veteran is angry that local stores are allegedly charging tax on sales of the American flag, which is a violation of Maryland law.

In an informal survey of 12 area stores, Salmon found that 11 of them were charging sales tax on the Stars and Stripes. The only store that apparently knew about the law was Best Products in Towson, he says.

U.S. and Maryland flags that can be flown from a pole are tax-exempt, says Maria Friedenwald of the retail sales tax division in the state comptroller's office. Small decorative flags, however, can be taxed.

Salmon, who is retired from the textile business, was a tail-gunner in 34 bombing missions over North Africa and Europe during the war. He is a past commander of the Kelly-Timonium American Legion Post #174. To say he is a fan of the flag is putting it mildly.

That's why he's upset.

"A hell of a lot of people out there are paying sales tax on flags when they shouldn't be," he says.

While making the rounds for his survey, Salmon went to a local Sunny's Surplus store to buy a 3-foot-by-5-foot U.S. flag. He says he argued with a employee there over the sales tax question. Salmon told the employee, "I'm not leaving this store without this flag, so you better call your headquarters and get this thing settled."

The employee called the Sunny's Surplus corporate office in Elkridge and was told that there was indeed no sales tax on large flags.

Yvonne Summers, the merchandising manager at the Elkridge office, says the company's policy is not to charge such a tax.

SADDAM'S MENTAL PROBLEM

While most might be content with a simple diagnosis of Saddam Hussein -- e.g., "He's crazy" -- Dr. Jim McGee of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Health System went on WJZ-TV the other night with a more clinical diagnosis.

McGee, who has also provided psychological help to members of the Orioles, explained that Hussein suffered from narcissism of a severe degree. "It's impossible to predict what he will do next," McGee said of Hussein's disorder, which involves a pathological self-love.

The interviewer, Richard Sher, asked if Hussein might commit suicide. Unlikely, the doctor said, but not unheard of in such a patient. In sum, McGee said, Hussein behaved like Hitler, was amoral and generally cared only about keeping his own power.

FREE VALENTINES FOR TROOPS

Another local greeting-card store, Sassy Sentiments, in the 300 block of N. Charles St., is offering free Valentines for people to send to troops in the Middle East. The store, one of several in the area offering the free cards, is splitting the cost with Recycled Paper Products, a card manufacturer.

MORE HELP FOR FAMILIES

First Call For Help, an information and referral agency funded by United Way, now offers a referral service to military families in need of help during Operation Desert Storm. The agency will provide the service to families in need of counseling, crisis intervention, financial support, legal aid, parenting support and employment and career guidance.

The decision to begin referrals for military families was attributed to an overwhelming number of war-related phone calls that have been received over the past month.

Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 685-0525 in Baltimore, or 1-800-492-0618 from elsewhere in Maryland.

If you know an interesting story of how the war is affecting people on the home front, let us know. Call 332-6457.

PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN

Thomas W. Waldron, Patrick Ercolano, Laura Lippman and William Thompson contributed to this story.

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