There has been quite a bit of controversy over the last few years about consumers who purchase discount cigarettes online. You can find advertisements for these web sites in just about every magazine there is, and many times smokers can save thousands of dollars a year through this method. The question before the court, however, is whether or not you can legally purchase discount cigarettes online, especially with regard to state imposed taxes.

The question here is really about jurisdiction, which is asserted over a specific geographical area. When you purchase discount cigarettes online, you are likely buying from a company that conducts business in another city or state. The laws for cigarettes, including taxes, are probably different in that state, which means that you have to consider your own liability for the taxes that are not charged.

In most cases, taxes are far lower when you purchase discount cigarettes online, which is why they are cheaper than what you would find at a neighborhood convenience store. But how is this different than driving from New York to New Jersey to purchase cigarettes, and what will actually happen if you are caught?

Generally speaking, it is the consumer’s responsibility to pay taxes when they purchase discount cigarettes online. This might mean adding the tax to your purchase, or paying for the taxes separately. Whatever the case, the state government can pursue collection for back taxes if you are found to be illegally purchasing cigarettes, and they can demand payment immediately. You probably know that there are ways to track such sales, and cigarettes are considered a profitable commodity in the U.S.

The issue, of course, is whether you owe the back taxes, or whether those charges will be relegated to the online retailers who sell them from states with lower taxes. In most cases, the government will give the retailer a choice either they can pay for the back taxes themselves, or they can turn over their sales records so that the government can pursue collection individually. If you think that an online retailer is going to satisfy millions of dollars in taxes themselves, you’re sadly mistaken. Instead, your records will be turned over to the government.

Another factor you have to consider when you purchase discount cigarettes online is the tax status of the company making the sales. In the U.S., Native Americans conducting business on their own land can often sell cigarettes without charging taxes at all, and many of the online retailers take advantage of this tax benefit. For example, the Alabama Coushatta Native American tribe in Texas has a section of land on Highway 1960. They sell cigarettes without charging taxes, and this is perfectly legal.

Again, however, the subject of jurisdiction comes into play, and even if you purchase discount cigarettes online from a tax exempt Native American retailer, you’re having that product shipped out of the jurisdiction to your home. In most cases, you will be responsible for paying back taxes if you are caught.

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