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All the News That's Fit to Tax

The price of an Idaho Statesman varies from store-to-store. All are supposed to be charging sales tax, but apparently some aren't


Want to buy a weekday Idaho Statesman at WinCo Foods? That will cost you 53 cents--50 cents for the paper, 3 cents for sales tax.

Buy the same paper at Albertsons or Jacksons and the Statesman will cost you 74 cents--70 cents for the paper, 4 cents for sales tax.

Fred Meyer or Boise Co-Op will charge you 75 cents--no charge for sales tax--for a daily Statesman.

The daily Statesman costs 75 cents at a vending box, but it's tax exempt.

Grocers and convenience stores aren't in a bidding war, but they're definitely collecting varied amounts of sales tax and, in some cases, none at all.

"One of our associates in accounting examined the Idaho tax code six weeks ago," Mike Read, spokesman for WinCo Foods told Citydesk. "Rather than changing our price, we decided to simply charge the 6 percent sales tax at the register. It's a nominal fee anyway."

But that's not how they do business at Fred Meyer.

"We do pay the sales tax, but we haven't been charging an extra 6 percent," said Fred Meyer spokeswoman Melinda Merrill. "But we're not quite sure if that's right and we need to do some more research."

The profit margins--the difference between the wholesale and retail price--remains private, not unlike any other item the store might sell.

"The amount we charge an independent retailer for newspapers, like anything else, is based on quantity," said Idaho Statesman Customer Service Manager Brenda Lee. "I can't get into details. That's between us and them."

But it's also of particular interest to the Idaho State Tax Commission.

"If an auditor went into the store and saw that the paper was sold for 75 cents but there was no tax separately added, that could end up with the retailer being assessed a 6 percent tax liability," said Saul Cohen, tax policy specialist for the commission.

Specifically, Cohen and his number-crunching colleagues would examine sales receipts.

"And if that receipt doesn't have a separate statement on the tax, we would be unable to tell what the actual sales price would be," said Cohen.

Idaho Administrative Code 033.02 says that if a single copy of a newspaper or magazine is 11 cents or less, the price is not taxable.