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NORTHWEST CORNER, Conn. -- Since Connecticut's cigarette tax was upped from 50 cents to $1.11 per pack on April 3, retailers throughout the state have been under scrutiny by the State Department of Revenue with some being cited for non-compliance. In Litchfield County, however, retailers appear to have followed the letter of the law with the new tax.
Thirty agents from the Department of Revenue have been out in the field since the new tax was instituted last month verifying that the approximately 6,000 licensed cigarette retailers in the state have complied with the law, paying the additional tax on packs they already had. Retailers were tasked with purchasing special tax verification stickers from the state that indicate the additional 61 cents has been paid, The Register Citizen reported.
So far, agents have reportedly spot-checked several locations in Northwest Corner and no retailers have been found in non-compliance. In nearby Bristol, however, a tobacco-only shop was cited for having 238 cartons of undertaxed cigarettes.
According to Department of Revenue spokesperson Sarah Kaufman, distributors normally are the ones who purchase and sticker packages of cigarettes. However, when the tax law changed, existing merchandise was not exempt so retailers had to inventory and sticker each pack by 11:59 p.m. on April 2 themselves. "We expected there would be some [cigarettes] that we would have to seize," Kaufman said.
Though more than 20,000 packs have been seized since the changeover, Kaufman said the number of retailers cited accounts for less than 1 percent of licensed retailers, meaning that the majority of cigarette dealers are in compliance. She added that if a retailer is found in possession of undertaxed merchandise it is immediately confiscated. Retailers could face arrest, fines, loss of tobacco-selling license and up to five years in jail and $500 in fines if found in non-compliance, depending on the severity of the situation.
"There is an appeal process where they can appeal the seizure," Kaufman said. Retailers may be able to pay the tax with a penalty charge within 30 days.