Volume 42, Issue 5 - May 2007

the Farnady Files
Stand and Deliver 
Paying the Price, Like it or Not

by Dez Farnady

Picture it. There you were with the ladies in the carriage. They’re wearing outfits that, in a later time, would be Hollywood-designed with hoop skirts and decorative décolletage. You were behind the coach on your horse, boots polished, ostrich feather in your wide brimmed hat and sword at your side. The scruffy bandit with his grimy mask was standing by the side of the highway, hence the name “highwayman,” pointing his musket and all he needed to say was “stand and deliver.” 

If you had not protected yourself with John Wayne riding shotgun, and if you figured out that your sword was no match for his gun, I suppose what you did was deliver. Delivering, in the parlance of the day, meant that the highwayman was going to relieve both you and your lady friends of your loose change and valuable trinkets. Short of that, he threatened to relieve you of your immediate future. What a wonderful and simple time that must have been. You paid up and went on your way only to be stopped again in the next town by a more established sort of stick-up man, the local headman and his minions. 

From Place to Place
Traveling around the globe back then, you would have faced a more insidious form of highway chicanery, no matter where on earth you were. By sea, from the pirates of the China Sea to the privateers of the Atlantic or the buccaneers of the Caribbean, you were going to be asked to “stand and deliver” one way or another. From the land of the Chinese warlords in the Far East, west to the Bedouin sheiks of the desert, crossing over to the robber barons of Eastern Europe or the petty princes of the German and Italian past, someone was going to ask you again and again to “stand and deliver.” Maybe it was to guarantee “safe passage” through their domain or maybe it was duty or tribute. Whatever it was, they wanted to get into your wallet. 

Paying the Piper
We now live in a more civilized world where the highwayman will end up in jail (we hope) and the romance of the buccaneers, in spite of Hollywood, has been downgraded to B-movie status. The warlords, the robber barons and petty princes, however, did not fade away into history, but changed names and titles. Where is all this going, you may ask? Anywhere you do business in this country you will find lots of local warlords and petty princes who lord their power over you just like in the old days. Let’s see … at the bottom of the pecking order, where you do business, in the local principality, it’s the mayor or the city council who nick you for a local business license. When the warlord is a county, with a duly elected board of supervisors, your representatives, will also need to nick you for the local sales tax. 

Then comes the state and then finally, for the big bite, the Fed. I know we have to pay our way and I am a willing victim, but some of this is getting to be a bit too much. If we just stayed home and sold bananas off the fruit stand and we only had to deal with the above-mentioned cast of our elected characters to maintain our community services, I would understand. I object, however, to the duty you must pay to do business in the next community—even if it’s only across the street. You mean we have to have a business license because we are doing business in their town? Our office is wallpapered with business licenses for every jerkwater town that our truck drives through. … Oh yes, and there is the county sales tax—another bit of chicanery. Every county in the state has its own sales tax and not only that, each has its own tax rate. 

We do business from Siskiyou to Calaveras, from Stanislaus to Del Norte, from Plumas to Mendocino and from Colusa to Tehama. If the customer picks up his product at our place we pay the local sales tax. If we deliver to his shop we pay the sales tax collected by the state at the tax rate applicable to his location. If we deliver to his job site and it’s in East Contra Costa but we quoted it as a will call but his shop is in San Francisco and he changes his mind to ship someplace else, we have to change the tax rate every time because every rate is slightly different. If we don’t catch it then the state will probably catch us. 

If that isn’t enough, the latest shtick is that some small towns are adding their own local nickel’s worth to the county tax rate. If you deliver to their town you need to pay the adjusted sales tax rate in their county that includes their pound of flesh. This is all enough to make you long for the primitive days of yesteryear when all you had to worry about was the highwayman. At least he had the courtesy to say “stand and deliver.” 

the author: Dez Farnady serves as the general manger of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly. Mr. Farnady’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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