Monday, October 19, 2009

The Tax Man Cometh

At the age of 83, I’m admittedly a babe in the woods when it comes to business affairs. I’m getting an expensive lesson.

In September, when I offered my novel, Parson Campbell’s Breakthrough, for sale locally, my tax accountant did the paperwork and online work to set me up for the collection of state and local sales taxes. He filed online with the state of Alabama and gave me papers to file with Baldwin County and the City of Spanish Fort. All three jurisdictions levy sales taxes.
I paid him $75 for his services. It seemed reasonable, although I wasn’t real happy about having to seek professional help for the privilege of collecting taxes.

I took the county form to the nearest county court house annex and was told they’d send it to the proper office. When I dropped the city form off at city hall, I received an unpleasant surprise. “That will be $35 for the remainder of the year,” I was told.

“What for?”

“For your business license.”

As I said, I’m a late learner in these things. “I don’t want a business license,” I told her.

“But that’s what this is,” she said, “an application for a business license.”

“I need that, just to collect your taxes for you?”

“Yes, you’ll be doing business.”

I paid it of course. I was told I would owe another $65 in January.

Ten days later, a surprise in the mail. A bill from the county for a county/state business license. This time, only $30, good until next October 1.

My CPA told me I’d have to file forms with each jurisdiction every month “whether you do any business that month or not.” So today, a visit to his office to file sales taxes collected in September and to learn the complexities of doing my own filing in the future.

It took him nearly an hour to set up the online payment forms that I can use in future months. Good man, he asked, in return, a signed copy of my book.

In this first month of book sales, the taxes I owed the three jurisdictions totaled $35.98. For October, it will be less than that. In November, the game will probably be about over as far as personal sales of my book in Alabama go. All told, I may collect as much as $80 in taxes through December, at a cost to me of $140 and a signed copy of my book.

It’s rather late in life, but I’m learning about government and business.

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