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Nome City Council Clarifies Online Sales Tax, Restores Funding to NEST Shelter

Cardboard package with Amazon branding on a hardwood floor
Photo credit: Pixabay (2019)

Nome residents can expect to continue paying online municipal sales tax for goods purchased through vendors like Amazon, but they will see a break on their personal property taxes for ATVs and snowmachines.

With moose hunting season about to begin, the Nome City Council passed an ordinance at last night’s (Monday’s) regular meeting, exempting ATVs, snowmachines, boats, and trailers used for personal or business use from the City’s real property tax. Councilmember Jerald Brown explained why:

“Cost of living in Nome is high, and people engage in subsistence activities.”

Councilmember Megan Topkok elaborated that subsistence isn’t simply practiced for cost-efficiency but also for the cultural, spiritual, and nutritional well-being for many Alaska Native families.  

Nome families should, however, expect to continue paying municipal taxes for internet purchases. Online retailers will no longer be exempt or able to operate in a “grey area” when it comes to municipal sales tax.

Some of those retailers were selling through a “marketplace facilitator,” like Amazon or eBay, but they weren’t collecting and remitting sales taxes. City Clerk Bryant Hammond explained that the ordinance requires sellers and marketplace facilitators to comply with city laws:

If a marketplace facilitator demonstrates to the clerk’s reasonable satisfaction that the marketplace facilitator has made a reasonable effort to obtain accurate information about a sale… so, it does place the ultimate responsibility on the seller, but the facilitator is still involved.”

Essentially, an online retailer is responsible for collecting and remitting municipal tax. But, the marketplace facilitator is also responsible for ensuring that the third-party sellers comply.

That tax applies to goods or services that take place in Nome. If the service was only partially in Nome, that element would be subject to taxation.

The Nome Sportsmen Association was granted a thirty-year land use permit to operate the Sunset Firing Range. The City will also provide a loader for one day every year to separate and dispose of waste materials; however, the NSA is still responsible for disposing of lead waste.

In other business, Councilmember Jennifer Reader made an argument for the safety of Nome’s temporarily unsheltered population when she made an impromptu resolution to award $30,000 to the NEST shelter.

“I think it’s heading in the direction that we want to head in as far as helping people get services that they need to get off our street.”

Reader shared she had previously believed the shelter was inadvertently contributing to public intoxication and vagrancy on Front Street, but after further information from NEST director Rhonda Schneider, she agreed the shelter provided a public service. That resolution passed unanimously.

Lastly, Nome residents have some good news from Nome Joint Utilities Systems Assistant Manager Ken Morton:

“The PCE is fully funded, and we’ve been advised that we will be able to pursue the retro-credit.”

The refund will be for the July bill before the Power Cost Equalization was put back into the state budget. Morton expects residents to see that back-pay reflected in their September billing cycle.

The Council meeting closed with an Executive Session to discuss the ongoing city manager search. Clerk Hammond previously told KNOM that a public “meet and greet” for the candidates is being discussed, but that date is yet to be announced.

The next regular City Council meeting is scheduled for September 9.

Image at top: photo: public domain, via Pixabay.

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