`Couch tax' needed to protect Maryland's retailers and...

Letters to the Editor

June 05, 1999

`Couch tax' needed to protect Maryland's retailers and revenues

Barry Rascovar's Opinion Commentary column "Crackdown on the sofa scofflaws" (May 30) demonstrated a serious misunderstanding of the long overdue tax compliance effort initiated by state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

Mr. Schaefer's initiative is consistent with his long record of concern for Maryland businesses and jobs. The "use" provision of Maryland's sales tax law was designed to prevent tax avoidance and provide protection and fairness for Maryland retailers.

Lax enforcement has created a threatening situation for retailers, especially those selling big ticket items like furniture.

You can probably count on one hand the number of Baltimore-area furniture stores selling the high-quality furniture most affected by this tax avoidance.

Moreover, with the explosion of Internet retailing, action must be taken if Maryland is not to lose tens of millions of tax dollars and create pressure for tax increases.

Time will tell how effective Mr. Schaefer will be in implementing this compliance effort. But he has raised public awareness about a problem buried for too long under the bureaucratic bushes.

Tom S. Saquella, Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland Retailers Association.

Retailers need lower taxes, not tougher enforcement

As the saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

Larry Carson's article about Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's plan to try to recoup some of the millions lost in taxes that Marylanders avoid by shopping in neighboring states or on the Internet ("Maryland targeting consumers who dodge 5% sales tax," May 25) proves this point.

Mr. Schaefer seems never to have seen a tax he didn't like. The people elected this relic and he now appears to be determined to make them pay for it.

Mr. Schaefer apparently doesn't understand that lower taxes on furniture and retail goods are good for business, consumers and, therefore, government.

Tax-free shopping is even better. It is very attractive to shoppers.

Many citizens will continue to cross Maryland's borders or find other ways to escape Mr. Schaefer's tax net. What can he really do to stop them?

Will he stand with former state police superintendent Larry Tolliver at the Mason-Dixon Line and search our bags as we reenter with our untaxed goods?

Judging from some of his past wacky antics, he just may try it.

Instead of calling out the revenue posse, Mr. Schaefer should seek to eliminate, or at least lower, Maryland's sales taxes on furniture and other items.

That would truly help our retailers.

Thomas A. Coplin, Baltimore

Isn't it interesting and ironic that former state police superintendent Larry Tolliver, once criticized for helping Governor Marvin Mandel move furniture owned by taxpayers out of a public residence, is now drawing heat for helping another former governor police the private furniture purchases of taxpayers?

Richard J. Cross III, Timonium

Is our compassion limited by race and geography?

As I read about the response by private charities to the Kosovar refugees' needs, I am heartened by the humanity of U.S. citizens. We do care and respond to the suffering of others.

But the "Sun Journal" article "Unequal Compassion for Misery" (May 29) underscores a disturbing question about the overwhelming response to the plight of European refugees: What about our feelings for Africans or North Koreans as they face starvation?

Do we subconsciously care more about people who look like us and act like us?

Let's not forget human beings anywhere, no matter who they are.

Marianne S. Pearlman, Columbia

How secure are we, really?

In his Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, President Clinton thanked the troops in Europe for making our country secure.

But the president's allowing the Chinese access to our technology and expending our missile supply in his undeclared war in the Balkans makes many of us question how secure we really are.

William D. Townsend, Timonium

Hands off our Social Security funds

Why doesn't the government keep its greedy paws off our Social Security funds?

Every time you turn around, it is using the trust fund for something. Now it's $13.1 billion to fund the war in the Balkans.

I don't see senators or congressmen using any of their retirement funds for such purposes.

Why don't they pay us back the billions of dollars they have borrowed from the Social Security Trust fund?

R. J. Figgs, Baltimore

Teen-age alcohol abuse should be fought, too

I would like to thank The Sun for finally addressing the issue of underage drinking (" `This is your brain on booze,' kids," June 1).

As a student, I am painfully aware of alcohol's effects. We have been lucky enough at my school not to lose any students to drinking and driving or alcohol poisoning, but alcohol abuse is still a major concern.

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