Sure, it's great to pull out all those gift cards and shop online during your lunch hour.

But beware of states sales tax.

If you live in a state with sales tax and you don't get charged while shopping online... YOU STILL OWE IT! Yep.

Most of the time, you are paying sales tax when you hit the buy button anyway. But there are times when this doesn't happen.  Some small businesses may not collect it.

Also, if you are dealing with a business that does not have a physical presence in your state, they might not collect it either.  While this might feel like you are getting a bargain, you need to declare this on your taxes at the end of the year.  Why?  Because you owe your state taxes, no matter what.  Unless you are lucky enough to live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon, where you can shop free and clear of state sales tax.

Why are you on the hook?  Well if you are not charged sales tax, you still owe something called "use tax."  That's the formal name, but think of it as a delayed version of a sales tax.  You are basically charged the same state sales tax rate -- no matter when you pay it.  I know it's a drag, but just remember these taxes go to your state, so if the potholes in your town are really giving you a headache, then pay your fair share come tax time. 

For more on the tax rules you need to know, get more at

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