All across Wisconsin, smokers are paying more for cigarettes starting today. That's because a new dollar a pack increase in the cigarette tax goes into effect. The tax hike was included in the state budget approved by lawmakers last fall and signed into law by the Governor.
Cigarettes sold in Wisconsin are now subject to $1.77 in taxes, which is raising some concerns that smokers may look elsewhere to save some money. However, crossing the border or buying online doesn't mean you can avoid paying the higher tax. Meredith Helgerson with the state Department of Revenue says any tobacco product bought across state lines and brought into Wisconsin must have any tax difference paid on it. Residents are reponsible for paying the tax difference on products bought in states with a lower tax. In the case of online sales where no taxes paid at the time of purchase, the buyer is responsible for paying the taxes to the state.
Helgerson says smokers are required to pay the tax on a voluntary basis, although the state can impose penalties if you fail to settle the difference.
The state has been aware for some time of people who buy cigarettes online and have them shipped to Wisconsin. Helgerson says many of those retailers do report those sales to the state. She says they will be watching for people who buy large amounts of cigarettes online and try to avoid the higher taxes.
The tax is intended to help the state cover the rising medical costs from smoking related illnesses. Helgerson says those who avoid paying them only hurt the state.