“So, what did you do during your summer break?” If you happen to be a certain 12 year old boy from Pocatello, Idaho, you spent the summer being productive and successfully carrying on an entrepreneurial venture, and then experiencing your state government cracking-down on you for not being licensed and demanding a portion of your revenues.
The 12 year old son of Jason Weeks is who we’re talking about. Weeks’ son announced at the beginning of the summer that he wanted to acquire a motorcycle. Weeks had the good sense to tell his son to earn money and purchase one for himself. So the son took the father’s advice, and – presumably with some help from some adults – he launched a fruit stand, right near a Red Wings Shoe store in small town Pocatello.
But soon after Weeks’ son launched, the Idaho State Tax Commission lunged. “They confronted him first and he called me” Weeks told the Idaho State Journal newspaper. “It was the second day that my son was in business.”
According to Weeks and the local newspaper, the state is demanding payment for a 6% state sales tax that they claim should have been collected by the boy from cash paying customers that bought his raspberries. Weeks would not return my calls prior to the writing of this piece, but, without commenting specifically about the incident, the state tax commission acknowledges that it happened and notes that they have to enforce the law with everybody.
Americans everywhere should make note of this situation and learn from it. Lesson number one is that nobody should attempt to launch any sort of business in the United States without making certain that they are in full compliance with city, county, state and federal regulations. That’s a tall order, but that’s how costly it has become to do business in America.
Governments nationwide and at all levels are almost universally on the hunt for money, and many of them are broke. There is no limit to governments’ willingness to turn people upside down and shake cash out of their pockets, and they’ll even do it with children. (The Idaho state tax commission had a similar run-in with a 6 year old back in 2010!). If a business is being operated without the proper licensure and permitting requirements being met, and without proper taxation procedures in place, an operator no matter their age will likely be fined for being out of compliance, and fined retroactively for however long the non-compliance has been happening. Business owners, beware.
The other great lesson in this situation is to realize that we live in an era of abusive government. Agents of city, county, state and federal government often don’t know any limits to how they can and will exercise their powers over the lives of private individuals, and the cause of the problem is we, the people. With often less than 50% of the American population participating in U.S. presidential elections, voter turn-out for state and local elections is usually even smaller. Such ambivalence is emboldening to bureaucrats and politicians who have power and enjoy using it.
Abusive government won’t stop until Americans wake up and choose otherwise. Hopefully the young Mr. Weeks from Pocatello – and others in his generation – will someday choose more wisely than today’s adult population.