A Tiferet Sta"M Advertises his Level of Observance Bein Adam L'Chavero
In addition to "Ask Orthonomics" and "Bad Financial Advice" titles, I'm adding another one and amending the title of a previous post so that topics of a similar nature fall under the category "Have You No Shame?"
Jonathan Rosenblum has a column up on Cross-Currents that was printed in Mishpacha in response the Deal ordeal, which sadly can no longer be labeled the newest fraud investigation/case, regarding yashrut which has some nice lines from Rav Shimon Schwab and the other sources.
One commentor recalls a recent situation and asks for advice:
"I recently purchased talis and tzitzis at a Sta”M store in a large and well-known frum community in the US. The sofer was busy at work when I got there, and stopped to help me select the right size and fit (who knew there were different talis fits these days). When it came time to pay he quoted me a round number. When I pulled out my credit card he said “well in that case we’ll have to pay Uncle Sam” and proceeded to calculate the tax. I usually do not carry much cash, but had just been to the ATM machine and had enough to cover this relatively small purchase. Without thinking much, I handed over the cash and was nichshal be’aveirah.
As I was leaving, I saw that same scenario play itself out with another customer in the store who was picking up mezuzos, (and paid cash).
Before I start moralizing, its obvious that I participated in cheating the government every bit as much as the sofer. And to that end, I’m asking for eitzoz for what might be a proper takanna. (I cant just send the state of __ a check for the money owed.
But I also cannot stop wondering as to the kashrus of the Stam and other articles sold in this store. Was everything done and checked kadas ukedin? Probably. Does it matter? Not sure how to think about it. Chaveirim, please advise."
This was my advice:
I can only hope that the sofer who we have bought tefillin and mezuzot from are honest businessman. I can’t imagine how an item that is acquired through such means is truly kosher.
But, no matter what the price and no matter what the method of payment is, as per tax law, he is the one responsible to make an accounting and pay up, although I too would feel like a participant in tax evasion for handing over the cash rather than a check or plastic for the purchase after he basically advertise the intent to defraud.
It would take a bit of a backbone, but perhaps you could march into the store and return the items for cash back and let the store owner know exactly why and that you want to be kosher with all of your dealings and later buy the same item from a sofer who, at the very least, has the good sense not to state his intents to defraud (can you imagine someone stating his intent to cheat on his wife or break Shabbat to a stranger that walks into his store?).
Beyond that, perhaps you can call the owner and inform him that cash is also taxable, speak to a Rav regarding the sofer’s practices since such advertising could potentially be an issue for the kehillah, or just try to go forward by paying through check/debit/credit and rest easy knowing that he, not you, is responsible for the taxes no matter what the method of payment.
After I posted my comment I did have the thought that he could claim sales tax on his own state tax form by claiming a purchase was made in a state without sales tax for that amount. This would take care of one aspect, but certainly wouldn't take care of the social security, medicare, federal, and state income taxes owed.
I'm not sure what I would do if I was the one to hand over cash after such a statement. I rarely think twice when I had over cash for a good or service because corportations and business are responsible to take care of their taxes, not the consumer. If I spend time feeling responsible, I simply wouldn't be able to step out into the marketplace! On a similar vein, those who engage in banking, tax services, or accounting/bookkeeeping know that you can't police every transaction, although sometimes it is prudent to drop a client because you simply can't trust them.
Please add your own advice in the comments section, especially if you have been in a similar situation.