Sales So Taxing
Living in Oregon we don’t know much about sales taxes. That basically means we’re idiots. We’d rather pay a higher income tax than allow tourism pick up a part of our tab. You know, like we do when we visit most other states. Oregonians are rabidly opposed to the concept of a sales tax, which is understandable, but it only ends up shooting us in the foot. Some would actually consider a sales tax if it was accompanied by offset of equal amount on our income taxes. Unfortunately no one trusts the politicians that much.
I have to admit, it is pretty nice to be given a receipt and pay what’s show on the receipt. Too bad all states don’t do it that way. If my bill in an Oregon restaurant is $19.73 then that’s exactly what I pay. And I tip on that amount. Simple. Easy.
Occasionally we make a kibble run across the Washington border. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump across over mighty Columbia River. We don’t do it often, though, since it is means making a cash contribution of 8.4% to our neighbors to the north when they don’t do the same thing for us.
Correction: The current sales tax in Vancouver, WA, is 8.400 percent. Isn’t it funny how sales tax are one of those things that always get calculated to that fifth digit of precision?
This morning, though, I decided to grab some breakfast in downtown Vancouver. I’ve reproduced our ticket from the meal in the image to the right. Yes, I used the Comics Sans font because the situation fucking demands it.
- $1.75 for a cup of diner coffee? Pro: Free refiles. Cons: That’s the same price as a small black coffee at Starbucks except it was barely quaffable.
- Note that the location for “tax” is left blank even though we’re in a taxing situation.
No tax shown? What’s up with that? Don’t they have to tell you?
Then comes the credit card receipt. Although we were told our meal was $19.73 the amount on the receipt is $21.39. What magic is this? Logic and math skills dictate that the amount of tax must have been $1.66. I can’t quite do the division in my head but that pencils out to be a tax rate of 8.4316 percent.
What the hell? Turns out the actual tax was $1.65732 so they rounded it up to the nearest penny. Voila! A higher tax rate is born. As far as I’m concerned the great State of Washington now owes me $0.00268. Can I put on a lien on their ass?
That, however, is not the point. Take a careful look at that receipt. What, exactly, is being asked of me? If one isn’t careful, one might assume that the tip is supposed to be a function of $21.39. Remember, that’s the price of the meal bloated with the added taxation.
Is this some sort of VAT situation? (Just like the food?) What’s “value added” here? Not only did you get me to offset your income taxes with my sales tax donation, but you expect me to voluntarily pay extra for the privilege? Is this a vigorish? Is some guy named Guido in the back going to break my legs if I don’t comply? Does the house always have to win?
In this particular situation I tipped 20 percent. Based on my sales volume, the difference between tipping on the pre-tax amount (or not) is only 33 cents. Either way, it’s not a big deal. But, to me, it’s the principle of the thing. I tipped 20 percent. But if my server looks at it the wrong way, she’ll be thinking it was only 18 percent.
What do you think? Do you tip based on the overall total or the pre-tax amount? Or, like me, are you simply going to shun all states with sales taxes?