My Missouri blogging friend Bob McCarty has uncovered quite the story: a couple who ran afoul of the law unwittingly by selling a few hundred rabbits now faces a settlement offer of a $90,000 fine but could incur a $4 million toll from an unrelenting USDA.
It sounds ridiculous on the face, doesn’t it? Maybe the federal government didn’t get their initial cut so they’re looking to make an example out of the intrepid Dollarhite family.
But it also sends a message to anyone who wishes to provide a service or sell a product – you can’t participate in getting ahead until the people in charge get some scratch. Let me give you an example closer to home.
A friend of mine is a fairly avid photographer and wished to sell her wares at a local art show. It was fine for her to sell the pictures, they said, as long as she made sure to collect the sales tax due. They even suggested she price her items in such a manner that the included tax would make the items an even dollar amount – in other words, a photo would actually sell for 94 cents but $1 would be charged.
Granted, the state needs some taxation in order to survive but burdening a person who just wants to make a little bit of gas money off some of the photographs she’s most proud of and wanted to share? Perhaps there should be a sales threshold one has to achieve before collecting taxes in this situation – obviously a permanent brick-and-mortar business would be expected to collect this increasing burden, but why should the person who may be lucky to gross a few hundred dollars a year?
As you’ll see tomorrow, a couple of the musical artists at Third Friday were selling CDs of their work. Were they collecting sales tax? Maybe, maybe not.
Returning to the Missouri case, McCarty’s account of the story told the tale of a family which wasn’t mistreating their rabbits, which were sold in good condition to pet stores and other end users. Even the USDA inspector found little aside from picayune violations, but that was enough to send up the red flags and alert the authorities. Seemingly they found the most obscure regulation to nail this otherwise law-abiding family.
But if one can be harassed over a few hundred rabbits, what about someone saying things critical of the government or participating in a protest over policy? Since Bob has a merchandising business on the side and is working on the latter stages of a book which details the story of a soldier wrongly convicted of rape and other charges, perhaps he’s not on the government-approved list these days. You never know who may be looking into those financial dealings.
The safest way anymore may be to shut up and take that government check, as more and more people seem to be doing these days – but some refuse to play that game. Let’s hope more decide to break the chains.