Elizabeth Bartelt displays on her phone the Facebook
home page for West Bend and Area Buy, Sell, Trade on
Thursday afternoon in her store, All in Books, in
downtown West Bend. Bartelt is an administrator for the
John Ehlke/Daily News
Have you bought anything online? Who hasn’t?
did you pay taxes on it?
Wisconsin tax codes require that sales taxes be paid on
most every transaction, whether or not it took place in
Online sites like eBay and Amazon make it easy for
buyers; they include a Wisconsin sales tax in your bill.
Wisconsin Department of Revenue details some exemptions
to the requirement to pay what it calls a “use tax” on
There is a category the state calls “occasional sales,”
including fundraisers by nonprofit organizations,
neighborhood associations, churches, social clubs, civic
clubs, garden clubs and others. Auctions are exempt. So
are sales by someone not required to hold a seller’s
permit, if the seller isn’t making more than $1,000 a
year on sales. Think rummage sales and that old sofa you
sold to your roommate for $50 when you moved out. You’re
exempt from charging a sales tax.
the growth of social media and online sites facilitating
sales of second-hand goods, especially, make paying
taxes the responsibility of the buyer, not the seller.
Craigslist, a website of classified advertisements for
jobs, housing, items for sale and services, came online
in 1996. It began spreading across U.S. cities in 2000
and now caters to users worldwide. And a quick search of
Facebook for “buy/sell/trade” will turn up sites based
in communities throughout Washington County.
There are Facebook groups titled “Slinger & Area Buy,
Sell & Give Away,” a “West Bend & Area Buy, Sell,
Trade,” “West Bend Area Guys stuff buy, sell” “West Bend
Area Children’s Buy, Sell, Trade” and a “West Bend
Washington County Buy, Sell, Trade $5 and Under.”
Clearly, if you’re interested in buying or selling
online, you don’t have to look far.
Betty Bartelt, owner of All In Books, a used bookstore
in West Bend, is also an administrator for the “West
Bend & Area Buy, Sell, Trade” page on Facebook.
“I’ve been involved for about a year or so,” Bartelt
said. “I opened my store because of the buy/sell/trade
was getting such interest from people on the
buy/sell/trade sites, but books, that I decided to open
a used book store,” she said. “There are several of us
who have opened up stores because of the buy/ sell/trade
Bartelt said tax payments for most buyers and sellers
follow the rules of rummage sales.
would be no different than you having a rummage sale in
your front yard,” she said.
Still, it’s a little different for Bartelt, since she
does have a seller’s permit and operates a retail store.
If you hold a seller’s permit, you’re required to
collect taxes on your sales.
“When I sell on Amazon or on eBay I pay those taxes,”
she said. “Even when I sell on Facebook I pay those
Schneider, a CPA and tax preparer at Glynn Accounting in
Slinger, said if you’re not charged state taxes when you
buy something online, it’s you responsibility to report
it — and pay your taxes — when you file your individual
state tax return.
buyer is liable any time there is a tangible item,”
Schneider said. “They have a lot of different
definitions for that stuff, but it’s mostly personal
property, the obvious stuff — a computer, clothes.”
Wisconsin Income Tax Form 1, there is a line to remit
“Sales and use tax due on Internet, mail order, or other
Further, taxpayers are asked that “If you certify that
no sales or use tax is due, check here.”
Department of Revenue notes that Wisconsin coordinates
with other states to make sure taxes are paid. Sales in
other states to Wisconsin residents are linked to
individual returns to determine if the sales were
reported and the taxes paid.
if I sell my old computer to roommate?
“Yes, he should be paying use tax on it,” Schneider
said. “You, as the seller, don’t have to charge him
sales tax because you don’t have a permit — that’s where
the occasional sales come in.”
but do people always pay their “use” taxes?
have a couple that do, but for the most part, no,”
Schneider related something a client, who is also a
Wisconsin sales tax auditor, told him.
told me, ‘Nobody does that except for the auditors,’”
Schneider said. “It’s more of a ‘catch me if you can’
you are caught, expect to pay the taxes due. The state
can also charge a 50 percent penalty for filing an
Reach news editor Ken Merrill at