TN Tobacco Tax Enforcers Confiscate Cars for $13.02

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Since the Tennessee state gov'mint raised cigarette tax from .20 to .62 a pack, death sticks costs less across state lines. So thousands of financially-challenged (or just plain cheap) Volunteer State nicotine addicts have done the sensible thing: jump into their car, cross the border, buy some fags and drive home. reports that the Volunteer State has launched the kind of enforcement crackdown that child protection advocates dream about. Not only do TN revenuers surveil legal tobacco stores in other states (e.g. Kentucky), they also confiscate the cars of tobacco runners for as little as two-and-a-bit cartons of illegal smokes or 51 cigars ($13.02 in lost tax). Should the itinerant coffin nail carriers evade $155.62 in cigarette taxes they're guilty of a felony. In addition to losing their wheels, they're looking at six years in prison and an additional $3000 fine. follows the money. "Seized vehicles are sold with 90 percent of the profit going into the state general fund, and 10 percent into the revenue department's own budget. The tax program is designed to raise $228 million." And piss off a whole lot of people.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Redbarchetta Redbarchetta on Oct 10, 2007

    Freedom slaves. Can't balance state budgets and be responsible with OUR money so they have to devise inventive was to tax people in a round about way. And of course it's easier to beat down the little guy addicted to cigs. Our wonderful corrupt government, someone has got to do something about this it's getting worse.

  • Valentine Valentine on Oct 10, 2007

    I'm going to step in here as a Tennessean and defend my state. First of all, the articles concerning this would lead you to believe that some kind of out and out crackdown is occurring. The reality is that only several law enforcement officers are involved at strategically chosen locations where this type of tax evasion is most common - that is just over the border at points where the interstates and major arterial roads cross from Middle Tennessee to Kentucky. The Nashville metropolitan area is less than 30 minutes from the Kentucky border, so this sort of tax evasion is a big problem for the state. Those law enforcement officers are not pulled "away from fighting real crime". They are officers of the Department of Revenue whose sole job is to investigate and prosecute tax evasion and fraud. The State of Tennessee does not have an income tax; our state budget is funded by sales tax, property tax, and various luxury taxes like the cigarette tax. The Department of Revenue is doing their job by discouraging evasion of the cigarette tax. There is no white collar income tax evasion for them to investigate here. The cigarette tax hike from $0.20 to $0.60 was effected in order to provide some $200+ million of revenue directly to the state's basic education plan funding - money that goes directly to school districts across the state to pay teachers salaries and operating expenses. It is regrettable that some Tennesseans do not agree that this is a worthy goal to fund, but those few driving across the border to buy cigarettes are not representative of the state as a whole. The revenue agents have focused their efforts not on individuals crossing the state line and buying one pack or one carton, but on individuals crossing the line and filling up their car with cigarettes - either for personal use or intended for resale inside Tennessee. This sort of organized smuggling is clearly, patently illegal and as a citizen and taxpayer of this state I am happy to see the revenue department doing their job to stop it. We have a real challenge as a state funding new initiatives because we choose not to have a state income tax. It can require some creative thinking and financing on the part of our governors and their staffs. The cigarette tax hike was a good decision. $0.20 a pack is pitifully low, one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation. $0.60 a pack is still quite low compared to, for example, Northeastern states. Cheers.

  • Valentine Valentine on Oct 10, 2007

    I should also disclose that in addition to being a Tennessean, I am a smoker. You will find that few smokers, at least those I meet in the Nashville area, had little problem with the tax increase and all agree we have been enjoying some of the cheapest cigarettes in the nation for quite a long time. Even at $0.60 a pack you can still buy certain generic brands of smokes here for $2.50 per pack, all sales and cigarette taxes included. That number will make our Northeastern readers shed tears.

  • Bill Wade Bill Wade on Oct 10, 2007
    Even at $0.60 a pack you can still buy certain generic brands of smokes here for $2.50 per pack, all sales and cigarette taxes included. That number will make our Northeastern readers shed tears. I remember paying $1.50 a carton in the service because of no taxes. I consider it an obligation to purchase items at the best price I may find them. Why should a state line make a difference? This is just another example of the state stomping the little people.