Taxpayers deserve to know why Cabela’s gets a breaklight

Editorial from the Idaho Statesman

Unfortunately, not all of last week’s public records news was good.

On Thursday, District Judge Michael McLaughlin said the State Tax Commission does not have to release records justifying a tax break granted to Cabela’s.

Cabela’s does not have to collect sales taxes on its online and catalog sales to Idahoans. Cabela’s has said there is no connection between its retail stores and its Internet and catalog sales divisions — the “nexus,” according to the legalese, that would require the chain to collect taxes on all sales. The commission seconded Cabela’s reading of the law — but since the commission hasn’t released its records, we have no idea why.

Taxpayers deserve some answers.

In siding with Cabela’s, the tax commission is forgoing some sales tax collections. How come?

The state gave Cabela’s a considerable competitive edge in the online and catalog sales sectors — eight months before this trophy buck in the outdoor retail industry opened its first Idaho store. How come?

McLaughlin ruled against the Statesman, which has gone to court demanding the Tax Commission records. All Idahoans lost, though. We all deserve to see tax law interpreted in a transparent environment.

Whether they’re e-mails between county employees or correspondence between tax collectors and business leaders, public records ensure accountability. Public records protect your right to know — and more importantly, your right to understand how your government works.

But only when public records are made public.

Editorial from the Idaho Statesman

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