It’s still a Legend . . . Urban or Not

In the world of “internet” travel, it’s easy to get bogged down in fantasies, rumors and out and out lies. The same can be said of government press releases, sworn statements and campaign promises! In fact when I reflect on information provided by a “White House source” or an “anonymous administrative spokesperson”, I’m reminded of the “urban legends” that tend to circulate generationally and are sworn to be the absolute truth.

It’s well known that I don’t cut the current administration any slack when it comes to transparency or legitimacy, truth or reliability so I was compelled to verify a circulating rumor regarding Obamacare funding, Excise Tax on Medical Devices and Cabela’s sporting goods chain. Odd bedfellows to say the least, but I think the rumor took wing and gathered momentum in January 2013 because it referenced the dreaded “Obamacare” (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) linked with yet another excise tax being dumped in the laps of long-suffering U.S. taxpayers! The fact that there was a link with Cabela’s store, validated in print on the store’s January 1, 2013 sales receipts, lent the aura of truth and legitimacy to the story. 

The Affordable Care Act was passed in March of 2010 under a cloak of mystery with, then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi proclaim the necessity of the vote as “...having to pass it so we can find out what’s in it ...”! Surely the most ludicrous statement in the history of congressional bloopers and one that leads me to the conclusion that Ms. Pelosi has had her face “tightened” too many times and misread her notes! There was admission by congress at the passage that the bill hadn’t been read (or read thoroughly) because of its utter volume at 2,000 pages. Now there are 18,000 pages in the tweaked and finessed Affordable Care Act with updates and revisions added each day. What a SNAFU !

Okay - back to the medical excise tax; the bill includes a provision requiring manufacturers or importers of medical equipment to pay an additional excise tax of 2.3% of the gross dollar value as described in the National Formulary or the U.S. Pharmacopeia. It is not a required tax levied on consumers, however. Of course the IRS has its definition of devices as well so it is able to act as a seiner in netting more revenue via taxation.

Let me meld this with Cabela’s now: It is a common procedure for businesses in general and Cabela’s, in particular to upgrade their business software each year (this includes the cash register software also). The updated software includes changes in tax laws effective in the coming year (which included the medical excise tax of 2.3% for 2013). The software is apparently “all inclusive” and businesses, such as Cabela’s, found their cash registers spitting out the 2.3% charge on the total purchase, including and printing it on the sales receipt. Cabela’s does not charge medical excise tax and the error was discovered and corrected following the January 1, 2013 sales day. 

As the story spread throughout the internet and across the U.S. it snowballed and the “medical excise tax” mythology grew to include archery and sport fishing equipment, tires, coal and gas-guzzling vehicles! There was a misunderstanding of the IRS tax publication number 510 that apparently reinforced the error as it verified excise tax was added to the fishing equipment, coal, tires etc. It was not however a “medical excise tax” on those items. The Sport Fish Act passed in the 1950s included an excise tax on the fishing equipment and The Wildlife Restoration Program enacted in 1975 carried an excise tax on archery equipment to aid the program in its restoration efforts. Cabela’s granted refunds to any customers inadvertently charged the erroneous medical excise tax on their purchases of January 1, 2013. 

Even though the incident has been dissected and the error discovered, I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised to find the individual in the woodpile, tweaking the health care act to feed the voracious appetite of a wildly spending government. 

With additional Obamacare directives and requirements lurking around the corner in 2014, I would like to know how the prerequisites and demands are impacting your businesses (large or small) and what you are doing to cope with the mandates. Many small businesses, for example are cutting back working hours of their employees to avoid the expense of Obamacare. Others are closing their doors ... I would greatly appreciate input from any of you wanting to open the floodgates on this wacko, ever changing legislation. You may remain anonymous if you’d like and your information can be mailed to Sherrie Bond, P.O. Box 111, Napavine, WA 98565. Your input will be confidential, but I would like permission to use your examples in a future column.

Meanwhile, did you hear the one about the guy and his date, parked in Lover’s Lane when they heard a radio announcement that an escaped killer who has a hook for a hand?

(Sherrie Bond serves as Director of the Northwest Log Truckers’ Cooperative. She can be reached via email at BONDTRUCK@aol.com)