Death, taxes, and Internet communism

Charles Hill lives in a state (Oklahoma) which apparently has yet to impose taxes on digital music downloads, and while he thinks that's a good sign, he wonders how long the loophole will last.

How long the state can hold out remains to be seen, what with the market for digital music now running $1 billion a year, but the mere fact that the Capitol can read the news and not immediately think "Ooh, a new revenue source!" has to be considered a Good Sign.
Unfortunately for the people living around here, New Jersey is no Oklahoma. In New Jersey, the Internet tax police are so aggressive that you can't even escape them by dying:
Cigarettes cost Catherine Cavallo her husband of 25 years.

Now they might cost her $875.63.

Two years after her husband, Anthony, died of smoking-related illnesses, Cavallo got a New Jersey tax bill for the thousands of cheap cigarettes he had ordered on the Internet.

Cavallo, who lives with her daughter in Brigantine, N.J., doesn't smoke. She said she did not think she should have to make a secondhand payment on the smokes that killed her husband.

"It's not fair. They were bought under my husband's name, the credit card was under his name, and they came in the mail under his name," she said. "The only thing he did was use my computer without my permission. ... He didn't have an e-mail."

To which I'd add that he still doesn't have an email. Or a life. But death and taxes are so certain in New Jersey that the former is no protection against the latter.

I remember the good old days when the very idea of "taxing the Internet" brought indignant cries of outrage from every geek and libertarian with a modem. Now it seems like a done deal. Ebay, Paypal, even virtual money -- the state has its mitts everywhere.

Back to Mrs. Cavallo. She might not be much of a geek (and I doubt she's a registered Libertarian), but she sure knows how to tap into what moralists would call the wisdom of repugnance:

Consumers often think discounted Internet cigarettes are cheaper because state taxes don't apply.

"Maybe that's what the Internet companies want you to think," Vincz said.

The Internet company where Anthony Cavallo shopped,, handed over a list of customers to New Jersey.

"I was thinking, 'My God, how did they get into my computer?' " Cavallo said. "What is this, communism or something?"

Hey, she said it; not I! It's a neo-Cold War showdown in cyberspace.
Anthony Cavallo bought three cartons every three weeks in 2002 and 2003, his wife said.

"I know I'm going to have to pay it," she said, "but I'm not going to go down without a fight."

There's always Oklahoma.

MORE: In an unrelated coincidence, I'm on the road for most of today.

(Driving to New Jersey.)

posted by Eric on 05.06.06 at 07:22 AM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Death, taxes, and Internet communism:

» If it moves, tax it from
"In this world," said Benjamin Franklin, "nothing is certain but death and taxes." And Eric Scheie notes that the former doesn't spell an end to the latter: Cigarettes cost Catherine... [Read More]
Tracked on May 6, 2006 10:53 AM


I was shocked when I read the City Journal piece, The Mob That Whacked NJ. What do they think NJ is, California?

beautifulatrocities   ·  May 6, 2006 3:58 PM

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