Friday, May 14, 2004

A Rant About Sales Taxes & SST

I have nothing against sales tax. In many ways it is the most fair form of taxation we have. If you spend more, you pay more. It is (more or less) equitable.

To date sales taxes were collected based on the location of the store where the items were purchased. That is no longer the case. Now there is the "Simplified Sales Tax" which is supposed to cure all our ills.

'Cept it doesn't.

The theory is sound, but the practice is extreme. If you tax based on the location of the end user, you defeat the benefit of buying online because it levels the playing field.

Does this sound like one of those letters you get where it starts out, "In order to serve you better..."?

Let's take one of the more extreme examples of the lunacy this will impose as of July 1.

We mail brochures. In the past we paid sales tax at our local rate because we were the "end user". Now that it is based on the final location it changes everything.

You see, the mailers get printed and then sent to the mailing house. The mailing house puts the names on them and then ships them. Our clients then get these scrumptious little pieces of paper in the mail, and come running for our wares.

We are at X location, so we pay the tax at that rate. End of story.

Now it gets complicated. Oops. I mean "Streamlined".

Now if they go directly to the mailing house, and are then mailed directly, the individual customers become the points of taxation. This means that the taxes need to be calculated for every brochure that goes out based on the Zip+4 it went to. If you are sending 25,000 of these things, that means you have to figure out the Zip+4 for each of them, then calculate the tax rate for each of them, then calculate the taxes for each of them. You must then report the disposition of each Zip+4, and the amount taxed for each.

Look at Utah. One of the least populated states has over 400,000 Zip+4 routes. Is it even practical to figure out all that even with computers?

But it is done, and there will be no going back. The theory is sound. The execution is going to drive people to drink.

You can see if your state is on the hit list by going to I hope you have a good accountant on staff if you are in one of the 20 states that are going with SST!

Monday, May 10, 2004


About six months to a year ago my email traffic spiked to about 500 emails a day with around 98% SPAM. It made my account almost useless, but it was not an account I wanted to lose.

I initially tried filters (a miserable failure), and then gave Mailwasher a try. A good program, but I spent so much time working it, the advantages were almost lost.

In a frenzy of despair I finally came upon Bayesian filtering, and found POPFile to be a popular choice.

Within a day it was over 95% accurate and rising. After a week it was 98% and closing in on 99% accurate. Since December 23, 2003, I have classified 19,479 messages with an accuracy of 99.59%. It dropped a little bit lately as some of the more savvy Spammers are learning tricks to get through the filters. Even so, it is down to no more than a half a dozen a day.

The downside is minor yet worth noting. First, if you are expecting a message from someone who has never emailed you, be a bit paranoid and pay good attention to your mail for the next couple of days. Odds are it will end up in the SPAM folder the first couple of times.

Do not set your email up to empty your trash folder on exit. Every couple of days you will want to go through and check to make sure something didn't make it through. Usually they stand out like a sore thumb so it isn't hard, but you need to do it. If you don't you may lose a half dozen messages in a given month after it is well trained. It isn't bad if it is a newsgroup posting, but if it is your ebilling from your bank, you could have an issue.

All in all I would have to totally revamp my entire email account structure if it were not for POPFile. It still takes a while to download all the messages, but I don't have anywhere near the problem getting through them as I did.

Not only that, but it is free to!

Catch it at