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HANDLIN-BUCCO BILL INCREASING PENALTIES
ON UNTAXED AND SMUGGLED CIGARETTES
RELEASED BY COMMITTEE
Legislation sponsored by Deputy Assembly Republican Leaders Amy Handlin and Anthony M. Bucco that increases fines and jail sentences for illegal cigarette smuggling and avoiding the payment of the appropriate tax in New Jersey was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee today.
The bill, A-3278, stiffens the penalties for offenses such as selling cigarettes without a license, purchasing or selling unstamped cigarettes or refusing to produce business records pertaining to the purchase, sale or transportation of cigarettes.
“Smoking cigarettes is unhealthy and costly,” said Handlin, R-Monmouth. “While the habit may be hard to kick, avoiding the taxes due to New Jersey is illegal and the penalties must be strengthened to send a message that whether you are a buyer or seller, the law regarding taxes on this commodity must be obeyed.
“Transporting unstamped cigarettes or advertising their purchase through the mail are some of the ways New Jersey does not receive tax revenue it is rightfully due,” explained Handlin. “Imposing a stronger punishment for breaking the law will get the violators’ attention.”
Under New Jersey’s Cigarette Tax Act, cigarette tax payments are evidenced by appropriately stamped cigarettes packs. New Jersey residents are not permitted to possess or consume untaxed, improperly stamped or unstamped cigarettes. Criminal and civil statutes apply in either of these circumstances.
“No one is naïve enough to believe that buyers and sellers of cigarettes do not exploit illegal loopholes and avoid paying the lawful tax,” said Bucco, R-Morris, and Somerset. “Smuggling this commodity into New Jersey is not a secret. Not only does the state lose important revenue, but it hurts the law-abiding retailers in our state such as convenience stores and gas stations who sell this commodity and depend on these customers for business.
“We must get the attention of those breaking the law that dodging their tax obligation will have severe consequences,” continued Bucco. “Whether it is the individual purchaser who is guilty of casual smuggling or larger scale entities that believe they can offer a great marketing and sales tool by sidestepping the tax obligation, there will be a more significant penalty to pay.”
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