Pennsylvania Woman Wins Toilet Paper Tax Lawsuit

December 3, 2007

Back in October, we reported on Mary Bach, a Pennsylvania woman who sued K-Mart because her $3.99 toilet paper purchase was incorrectly taxed (for 28 cents). The Associated Press reports that Ms. Bach won her lawsuit, and under Pennsylvania’s consumer protection law, K-Mart must pay $100 (357 times Ms. Bach’s actual damages).

Recovering illegally collected taxes is certainly laudable, but K-Mart seems caught between a rock and a hard place, as we previously noted:

Some 7,400 jurisdictions in the United States impose a sales tax, and most if not all of those taxes carve out exemptions and exceptions for politically-favored products. Keeping track of what’s taxed and what’s not in 7,400+ tax codes is a tough job, and if you mess up, you face fines and lawsuits.

For instance, the following items are among those exempt from Pennsylvania’s sales tax: wrapping paper, toothbrushes, coal, coffins, horses (but only if shipped out-of-state or used for commercial racing), three kinds of trout (out of twenty), gum, tourist promotional materials, and toilet paper.

With so many exemptions and deductions in our tax code, the real news story should be when someone gets it right, not when they get it wrong. Businesses small and large can suffer as they try to keep up with the ever-changing mess.

More blog posts on sales taxes here.

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