Hawaii AG pursues cigarette tax scofflaws

Chris Rizo Mar. 16, 2010, 12:17pm

Mark Bennett

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Legal Newsline)-Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett says people who buy cigarettes on the Internet could owe the state $26 for every carton they order.

Bennett's office has recently increased efforts to collect the state's 13-cents per-cigarette tobacco tax on all out-of-state sales, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported this week.

In all, the Aloha State is missing about $600,000 and $700,000 in uncollected tax money.

Recently, the state sent out more than 900 letters to Hawaii residents who bought cigarettes on the Internet but did not pay tax on them.

"Wholesalers and retailers are paying the tax, so for them they are at a disadvantage," Bennett was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "The tax is passed on to the consumer."

Bennett said anyone who purchases, uses, controls or possesses untaxed cigarettes must pay the tax.

"People need to be aware that there are criminal penalties that can attach depending on the number of cigarettes possessed," Bennett said.

The Star-Bulletin noted that Hawaii officials can pursue local buyers is because a federal law, the Jenkins Act, requires Internet cigarette retailers to report the names of their customers to local tax officials.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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