From the Archives: North Dakota Adopts Sales Tax in 1935

October 10, 2008

A few days before North Dakota’s new sales tax went into effect in the middle of the Great Depression, this appeared on the front page of the Bismarck Tribune (Apr. 27, 1935):

Mrs. Citizen Will Pay Sales Tax Wednesday

Shoppers to Need Extra Pennies to Pay Two Per Cent Fee Voted by Last Legislature;
Nichols Explains Merchants Must Remit on Total Volume of Sales

When Mrs. John Q. North Dakota goes to market next Wednesday morning she had better take some pennies along. She will need them to pay the two per cent sales tax voted by the last legislature for application on every purchase of tangible goods.

If she buys an order of goods, the tax bill will be applied to the total. If she buys only one article she may have to pay slightly more or slightly less than two per cent tax, a scale having been agreed to by the state tax department and the merchants to facilitate the collection and remove as much annoyance as possible.

The merchant is the tax collector. Mrs. Citizen, who spends about 90 per cent of the family income, is the taxpayer. Everyone interested in the sales tax is waiting to see what she has to say about it.

Meanwhile, the state tax department made it clear that the merchants will have to remit taxes only on the total volume of their sales. They will not be compelled to keep tax books on each individual purchase.[…]

Quaint and informative, if a little misogynistic.


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