Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

County, 12 Municipalities Seeking Votes for Tax on Sales of Out-of-State Goods

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

County, 12 Municipalities Seeking Votes for Tax on Sales of Out-of-State Goods

Article excerpt

St. Charles County and 12 municipalities in the St. Louis area want purchasers of out-of-state goods to pay their share of sales taxes.

They have put local use-tax proposals on the ballot for April 1. St. Charles County promises to use the tax revenue to start a county parks system. Pacific promises to earmark its money for police services.

The municipalities seeking the tax are Bel-Ridge, Breckenridge Hills, Flordell Hills, Normandy, St. Ann and Wilbur Park in St. Louis County; Pacific and Union in Franklin County; Festus in Jefferson County; Elsberry in Lincoln County and Cottleville and St. Peters in St. Charles County. The St. Charles County use-tax rate would be 1 1/2 cents. The rate in St. Ann would three-fourths of 1 cent. Bel-Ridge, Flordell Hills, Normandy and Wilbur Park would have one-half of 1 cent. The rate in Breckenridge Hills would be one-fourth of 1 cent. The other rates are Festus and Union, 1 3/4 cents; Elsberry and St. Peters, 1 1/2 cents; and Cottleville and Pacific, 1 cent. The proposals need simple majorities to pass. Last August, the same proposals lost in St. Charles County and many of the municipalities that have decided to put it to a vote on April 1. State law prohibited use-tax votes last November. "The use tax substitutes for a . . . sales tax on goods or materials that are purchased out-of state," while the customer is in Missouri, Breckenridge Hills Mayor Archie Ledbetter explained in a flier he circulated to residents. "It is called a use tax because the goods or materials are brought into Missouri and used by the purchaser." "The main purpose of the local use tax is to create a level playing field for your local retail businesses that much collect the city sales tax," Ledbetter wrote. "Currently, your local retailers are at a competitive disadvantage with out-of-state vendors who do not have to collect local taxes. The local use tax will fill this loophole." Businesses pay almost all of the tax; individuals rarely will spend enough money on out-of-state purchases to be required to pay the tax. Technically, individuals are subject to it when they buy from catalog companies based outside Missouri. But state law says that customers do not have to file use-tax reports on purchases totaling up to $2,000 a year. The state includes a use-tax return for consumers in the income-tax booklets sent to residents each December. Jan Beardsley, co-chairman of the campaign committee for the St. Charles County use tax, estimated that the tax would raise about $1 million a year. The county would use the money to buy and operate parks of 100 acres or more, with at least half remaining as open space. A trail system could link county parks with municipal ones, he said. Although the major cities in St. Charles County have extensive parks systems, the county does not have one. …

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