With Neighbors Like These…

Published December 1, 2010

One more follow-up to my story about tax-free online shopping. As I mentioned, hardly anyone in Massachusetts pays the use tax due on items purchased out of state.

(Say you drive to New Hampshire to buy a mattress, or you purchase a laptop from Amazon.com. You won’t pay sales tax, but you are obligated to pay a use tax to Massachusetts while filing your year-end tax returns.)

I asked Bob Bliss, the Department of Revenue spokesman: Are Massachusetts taxpayers ever audited and found to owe use taxes?

“Basically, no,” he said. There was this one time, though, when a man purchased a sunroom from New Hampshire and trucked it back home to Massachusetts. Someone tattled on the man, and he was surprised to find a very large tax bill from the commonwealth.

“I cannot tell you with a straight face that that’s an everyday occurrence,” he said.