OLD Media Moves

Ask Talking Biz News…about sales taxes

July 4, 2011

Posted by Chris Roush


Here is the another installment of Ask Talking Biz News, where a business reporter or editor asks a question related to reporting or writing about a business news topic.

Here is the question:

I’ve been writing a lot lately on economic development incentives, and I’m turning my focus to figuring out how much some local companies pay in taxes out here.

There are three direct sources of taxes: a business license fee; property taxes; and then sales taxes.

It’s the sales taxes that are tricky because they are not public information. The xxxxx State Franchise Board says the information is private and keeps it secret due to competitive issues. Local governments have to essentially agree to keep it private. So xxxxxx, for instance, can’t say how much Apple pays in sales taxes.

Here’s where I’m looking for some help: Is this type of information public in other states? I want to make a list of the number of states where it is public record and call on the state to reveal the numbers.

Of course, if this is private everywhere, then I probably don’t have a case…

Talking Biz News responded:

Sales tax returns in a broad sense are public records in all states. But the amount of information released varies widely according to each state’s constitution, and that state’s attorney general’s interpretation of it.

For instance, some states such as Texas, itemize sales tax returns and publish detailed data with little delay on a state website. Other states, such as New York, release sales tax data with as much as a 2-year delay. You will have to contact your state’s sales tax collecting authority to know how much data is public record.

You, or the paper, need to find a good state law attorney willing to fight this for you.

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