The Gift Card Grab!

Posted: 25/12/2007 in taxation
Tags: , ,
There has been several articles in local and trade papers regarding Baldacci’s latest wealth grab trick. It appears as though he wants to take the unused portion of any gift cards you have collecting mold in your wallet, and use it to try to make himself look like a hero by balancing the states questionable budget. I work in retail, so I am somewhat familiar with this area, and I have one thing to say about this shady deal being cooked up by the states Attorney General Office. WRONG MOVE FELLAS!

There are so many things wrong with this picture I don’t know where to start. But for those of you who are not fully cognizant of how and what a gift card really is, let’s talk about that for a moment. A gift card is simply that. A gift. It is a product that a loved one or a friend put time and effort, as well as cash into to present to you for some reason. Christmas, birthday, graduation, whatever. For this discussion, it really doesn’t matter what the occasion is, just remember that somebody gave you a gift. It was free and clear, no strings attached. The beauty part about this type of gift is that you can get exactly what you want at the store it was issued at. That’s a big plus in my book. But it is not cash in your pocket.

Now here’s the gist behind the story reported by the AP and several local rags. The Attorney General, under the direction of Comrade Baldacci wants the card issuers to turn over sixty percent of unused card balances after two years time. This seems to me to be in total violation of their own rules to me. Or better yet, it violates the rules of fair game. Maine is once again trying to regulate interstate businesses, just like in the so called “Use Tax” that they placed on our income tax forms, and many other little things people don’t generally realize are going on behind our backs. Laws need to be equal when they affect people from many jurisdictions. It is unfair for a national company, say Walmart here, to be held to laws that vary considerably from state to state. So far, it appears as though only the Socialist states in this country are trying to latch onto this money grab scheme.

The numbers to be garnered are plain enough. $60.00 out of every $100.00 that exists on those cards, and haven’t been used within two years are going to be stolen by the State in an effort to fix the current budget crunch. That’s a lot of bucks folks! It’s not surprising the crooks in Augusta want to give it a try. But when you look at the picture from a few feet away, you can see the whole picture, and not just the budget shortcomings. And it looks like somebody giving a pair of scissors to a four year old and telling him to go to town on a Monet. It’s gonna make a lot of gaps, and they can never be effectively repaired.

In the first place, the money is not unclaimed. It belongs to the retailer. You don’t actually have cash in your pocket with one of those little cards. What you have is a contract that allows you to purchase a certain dollar amount of product from the retailer who issued the card. The State does not have the power to invalidate a contract you and another party may have simply because you haven’t used your rights the contract provides for. And as far as two years being some kind of limit, there is none allowed by the State of Maine. That’s right, Maine prohibits any kind of time limitation on gift cards. That means the contract the card holds is valid in perpetuity.

And as I said earlier, the money value does not constitute unclaimed funds. An unclaimed fund is like when you opened a savings account in the fifth grade and forgot about it that summer, and then your parents dragged you off to another state to live. A couple of years later, the bank has no idea where you are, and has to turn the money over to the state as unclaimed funds. The issuers of the gift cards know where that cash is. It’s in their bank account, waiting for the card to be used. Suppose you have a gift card with twenty dollars on it at Walmart, and you don’t use it for five years. Walmart has to honor the card, as there is no expiration in Maine, remember?

But three years ago, Maine took twelve of those dollars from Walmart and kept it as their own under this fraudulent unclaimed funds scheme. Does that mean Maine will return that twelve dollars to Walmart? I don’t think so. Is it fair for Walmart to give you twenty dollars worth of product for only eight dollars? Under the contract of the card, they have no choice in the matter. What has happened is that Maine has redistributed Walmarts wealth, against contractual law. This places Walmart in the position of violating contractual law, which is in itself, a violation of the law. But the routine works so well in other Socialist Nations, why not try it in Maine?

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