You've heard of Sigourney Weaver's new hit science-fiction movie "Alien 3"? Next week brings "Phase 3" of the Maryland tax law changes and many people will consider it alien.
As with the two earlier stages of the tax changes the state legislature approved last spring, this phase, which takes effect July 1, is fraught with seeming inconsistencies. As part of the legislature's effort to close loopholes in the state sales tax, more were created. As of next Wednesday, for instance, janitorial services such as restroom maintenance, furniture polishing and floor care will be subject to a 5 percent sales tax. However, heating, ventilation and air conditioner cleaning services won't be taxed. Why must janitors come clean, tax-wise, when they buff a floor, but not electrical contractors cleaning a heating duct? Go ask the legislature.
It's probably the same reason that the new expanded sales tax applies to a single ice cream sandwich but not to a dozen of them bought at once. Or that college students on a meal plan won't pay tax on their food, while classmates not on a meal plan will pay tax on campus-bought meals. The legislators' intent, as announced last winter, was to simplify Maryland's stew of a sales tax. They added more ingredients, yes, but it's still goulash.