A Quick Look at Fireworks ... and Taxes

Why do we see billboards advertising fireworks? While fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts?

For the same reason we see ads for Foxwoods. Or Mohegan Sun.

Fireworks are legal in New Hampshire; casinos are legal in Connecticut. In Massachusetts, in case you wanted to know, it's illegal to possess fireworks. We are one of just 10 states where fireworks are illegal without a permit.

Changing subjects. Massachusetts has heavy-and soon to be even heavier-taxes on cigarets. Which I spell as "cigarets" because that was the way it was in The Miami Herald's stylebook when I was a lowly reporter in the 60s. You can spell it cigarettes if you like. So they're expensive to buy. But, loophole here, you can buy them on the internet or directly from an Indian reservation and you don't have to pay this state's taxes.

You will pay taxes, however, on mail order items-IF, that's a Big I, Big F, the seller has a store in Massachusetts. So, if L. L. Bean doesn't have a store here, you won't pay sales tax on, say, a tent. Although I don't want to buy a tent, I probably wouldn't want to pay the shipping costs, so I'd buy it locally. And, thus, pay the tax.

It's estimated that the state is missing out on about $300-million in taxes on remote sales.

And if you paid your tax, as in income tax, to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and you haven't received your refund yet, just wait. And wait. And wait. An estimated $512-million haven't been sent back to you and other taxpayers yet. This is good for the state, which has a serious budget problem for both Fiscal Year 2002, which ends this month and Fiscal Year 2003, which starts July first.

Of course, this is bad for you. But, chances are, your return hasn't even been opened yet, and you'll get a refund around Labor Day.

Meanwhile, to pay the state's bills, you'll probably see an increase in taxes. Unless the Governor vetoes tax increases voted by both House and Senate during this year's budget negotiations. Although House and Senate conferees are working now to iron out differences in the two budgets, they're not likely to change the decided upon tax increases. And, leaders of both House and Senate claim to have enough votes to over-ride any gubernatorial vetoes.

In short, you'll pay more for those cigarettes-75 cents additional per pack-so stock up now.

Hope that you didn't take any capital gains this year, because the tax on them is scheduled to go up as well. Only, retroactive to January lest so it's too late for anyone to do anything about it and you'll pay higher taxes than you thought you would pay. I'm not saying it's right-and I don't think it is-but I'm in the minority in the legislature.

Your income taxes won't go down, as they were scheduled to do, because you voted to decrease them at the polls last year. No sire. We're freezing the income tax rate at 5.3 percent. No 5 percent for you. Or me.

Pharmacists will be taxed-although no one is calling it a tax-about $5 per prescription for Medicaid patients. So they'll obtain and dispense medications at a loss.

And nursing homes taxed on each Medicaid bed, with the promise they'll get $2 back for every dollar they pay. Sure they'll get it back.

Tax, tax, tax. And spend, spend, spend. Although projected revenues will be down $2-billion for Fiscal Year 2003, our budget is more than it was last year. $24-billion.

Go figure.

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