Last year, an acquaintance of mine discovered that he owed thousands of dollars in taxes for cigarettes he'd bought online. I assumed it was a fluke, but it seems my friend's situation wasn't as rare as I thought. Last month, I read in the Seattle Times about Scott Adams, a smoker socked with an $8,000 tax bill.
As the price of cigarettes has soared in recent years, many smokers have turned to the lower rates offered by online vendors. At ordersmokesdirect.com, for example, I recently spotted a carton of Altria Group's
But when you buy cigarettes online, you're still expected to pay applicable taxes, and various states will often send you bills. Mr. Adams ignored the bills he received, and with hefty penalties and interest applied, his tab soon reached $8,000. He's now having 25% of his wages garnished to pay his bill.
The most obvious takeaway here: Take your tax obligations seriously when ordering goodies online. But for extra savings, consider quitting smoking altogether. Another acquaintance of mine recently quit when Texas hiked the cost of a pack of cigarettes by a whole dollar.
Focusing on the financial benefits of quitting can help you improve your health and wealth alike. Imagine that you smoke one pack a day, and each pack costs you $4.50 on average. Multiply $4.50 by 365 days, and you're looking at an annual cost of $1,642. If you invested that $1,642 in the stock market, earning the historical average return of about 10% per year, in 30 years you'd have some $28,000. If you invested $1,642 in the market each year for 30 years, you'd end up with more than $250,000. Yowza.
If you want to quit smoking, an article I wrote a couple of years ago offers valuable resources to help.
In the meantime, be mindful of Uncle Sam if you're ordering smokes online. Many states have plans in place to pursue lost cigarette tax revenues owed them, which can collectively amount to many millions of dollars.
For more money-saving advice, tips on great deals, and general investing guidance, I invite you to take advantage of a free trial of our Motley Fool Green Light newsletter service. I think you'll like what you see.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.