EDITOR'S NOTE: Advance apologies for the length, but I assure you it's completely necessary to tell this story as it deserves to be told.
This past Monday, my friend Steve and I were flipping through the campus newspaper when we noticed the following advertisements for tax-free purchases at the various university-run eateries on campus:
Steve joked that we should report the university to the IRS for not paying their fair share of taxes. We both had a good chuckle at that when suddenly, it hit me: why not actually do it?! The worst possible scenario would be getting ignored, and at best we might be able to launch some crazy-funny investigation at the university.
So, later that day I composed the following to not the IRS, but the Wyoming Department of Revenue (under a pseudonym) in what I hoped would be a terrific practical joke:
EDITOR'S NOTE: Names removed to protect the innocent (and guilty).
To the Department of Revenue:After attaching the above pictures I sent it off, expecting no more than a routine "Thank you for you interest" in response.
As a concerned citizen of the State of Wyoming, I feel that it is my obligation to bring what I consider to be an alarming inconsistency in taxation to the attention of the Department of Revenue.
I am currently a student at the University of Wyoming which I have found to be an outstanding institution. However, in yesterday's (April 17th) edition of the student-run newspaper, The Branding Iron, I noticed an advertisement that struck me as highly inappropriate. From what I gather, all day, at every on-campus Residence Life & Dining Services retail location, all food and beverage purchases were tax free.
By my understanding of Wyoming state law, businesses are required to levy a 4% sales tax on purchases made at their establishment. While I also know that exceptions can be made for certain purchases, I have never heard of a stipulation saying that sales tax need not be paid on April 17th of each year. I have been taught paying taxes is a year-round civic duty, and it disgusts me to see entrepreneurs such as these showing such transparent disregard for the law to suit their own interests.
According to the Department of Revenue Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2005 for the Excise Tax Division, one the division's goals is to "Increase taxpayer compliance with licensing, reporting, and payment requirements." I hope that the division will stand true to these goals and deal appropriately with the blatant non-compliance I believe took place April 17th at the University of Wyoming's Residence Life and Dining Services establishments.
P.S. I am attaching with this email visual proof - a scanned copy of the advertisements in question so you may see for yourself that this evasion is both intentional and undisguised.
Boy was I wrong.
The next morning I found this reply in my inbox:
Ms. *******:The official here went on to explain Wyoming rates of sales tax. It's a terrific comprehensive explanation, but as it's a little long, I don't see a point in posting it here. If you're interested, email me, and I'd be more than happy to forward you the full overview. He then concludes the email:
Your e-mail from earlier this morning was routed to me for followup. I was informed of the advertisements by our Laramie based Department of Revenue sales tax field representative. The first thing Monday morning I made telephone contact with those responsible for the tax free promotion on UW's campus on April 17th. I pointed out to those responsible a Wyoming law that we administer that forbids such advertising. The law is Wyoming Statute 39-15-108(c)(iii) which states:
"No vendor shall advertise or state directly or indirectly to the public that the taxes imposed by this article shall be assumed by the vendor or that it will not be considered in the price, or if added, will be refunded;"
The statutory reference to "taxes imposed by this article" refers to sales tax in Article 1 of Chapter 15 of Title 39 of the Wyoming Statutes. The persons responsible for promoting this tax free day were unaware of the preceding statute. In making them aware of the statute I also requested that they immediately cease and desist with their tax free meals and beverages plans for the day. I was assured that they would do so.
Again, I thank you for your concerns about this matter as a citizen of Wyoming. In closing, I want to clarify one other aspect of your e-mail.
Again, thank you for your concern and bringing this to our attention. In this case we were already aware of the situation and acted promptly to correct the problem.Other than the aforementioned changes, I promise you all I have made no edits to either of the emails. I kid you not.
Wyoming Department of Revenue - Excise Tax Division
So, take it from me: Don't mess with the Wyoming Department of Revenue's Excise Tax Division. They take their job seriously.