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Archive | January, 2019

Sales tax armageddon (say goodbye to small online sellers)

TL;DR: Unless the tax madness unleashed by the Supreme Court decision last year is tamed, you will see many small online businesses like ours shut their doors. 

By now, most people have probably heard of South Dakota vs Wayfair, the Supreme Court ruling the upended the decades long precedence of requiring a physical presence in a state or district to require the collection of sales tax.  At this time, something like 2/3 of the states have enacted legislation that requires out of state or out of district sellers to collect sales tax if they exceed a gross revenue or number of transaction limit in a state or district within the state.  Most states are going with greater than $100,000 in sales and greater than 200 transactions to trigger the collection of sales tax.

What exactly does this mean for a business like ours?

First, a little background.  Admittedly, ours is a niche business and one done out of care and concern for the people who love and still use their decades old Revere Ware, like us.  In other words, we aren’t primarily in it for the money.  Having said that, making money off of this venture is a way to justify continuing to put significant effort into it.  We’ve also spent considerable time to streamline the business so that it doesn’t dominate our lives for the small amount of profit it makes each year.

From our perspective, the difference between the two thresholds, $100,000 and 200 transactions, is also a little strange.  Our average transaction total is $12.13; our parts are pretty cheap, and people tend to buy one or two.  That means, 200 transaction is only $2,476, a long, long way from $100,000.  It means that if we are unlucky, we just might pass that threshold in a few states or tax districts.  (BTW, a tax district is any area that has it’s own special tax, like a state, city, or county.)

So when we look at the cost of compliance of the new tax regime, our main concern is simply whether attempting to be sales tax compliant will become incredibly burdensome, and there seems to be every indication that it likely will, unless things change.

Consider that there are more than 10,000 ta districts in the US.  Assuming that every state adopts some kind of post-Wayfair decision sales tax regime, that means that we have to be aware of each and every sales tax jurisdiction and whether or not we have breached the threshold.  In California, the moment you breach the threshold, you are supposed to register to collect sales tax THE VERY NEXT DAY, and collect tax from that point on.  Can you imagine what it would take to pay attention to this and be prepared to register and collect taxes for 10,000 tax districts every single day.

Furthermore, there really aren’t any good methods to do this.  Our sales data comes from two places, our sales as a third party through large retailers, and sales from our own website, which comes from our e-commerce platform.  Neither has any good tools for dealing with this issue. That means we have to develop those tools ourselves.  The data for our third party sales are very limited, so it isn’t clear if this is even possible.

Then comes the compliance burden of filing sales tax returns in every district in which we determine we have had to collect sales tax.  Given that we may have only had to collect sales tax for a particular district for part of the year, starting at some arbitrary date, this makes it particularly onerous.

It currently takes us between 3-6 hours each year to prepare our single sales tax return.  If it turns out we have to file 10 such return a year, that is 30-60 hours, or 3/4 to 1 1/2 weeks of work.

One justification for throwing open the doors to states collecting sales tax now, vs 1992 when the Supreme Court decision was made that limited this, is that online sales are all digital now and the cost of compliance is minimal.  I can tell you, from the perspective of a small seller, this is not the case.  The tools on the various e-commerce platforms that we’ve used, to just support making it easy to file a single state and district sales tax return, just aren’t there.

There is one more thing to consider, which could be much, much worse, than anything else related to what we’ve considered so far; some states will no-doubt be overly aggressive at pursuing online retailers for sales taxes.  I’ve seen this happen in particular with California; they often will make assumptions and send out demand letters that then have to be meticulously defended to prove you don’t actually have a tax liability.  This is potential more time consuming and costly than the compliance.

In short, I am very worried for the viability of small, online businesses if this sales tax trap is not fixed. 

One possible solution is a streamlined sales tax system, where the same tax rules and rates apply within every jurisdiction across a state.  This typically goes under the name SSUTA, or Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.  While this would be an improvement over the current landscape, I still can’t imaging having to file 10 state sales tax returns every year.

Unless this is solved, I suspect that many small sellers, especially of niche products like ours, will simply close up shop.  Some products will no longer be available, and sales will be consolidated among larger retailers that can handle the cost of compliance.  Consumer choices will decline.

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RevereWare.org is now mobile friendly

In 2010, we created revereware.org to make it easier for people to find Revere Ware cookware on eBay.  The site downloads and categorizes all Revere Ware listings on eBay every 30 minutes, making it easier to find the exact item and size you need.

In 2013, we updated the site to be prettier and work better.

Since then, mobile devices have become much more prevalent and our site didn’t work particularly well on smaller screens.

We are happy to announce a complete overhaul of the site which is now, in the language of web technology, fully responsive. This means that it will display well no matter what size screen you are using.  Here are some screen shots of the new design.  You can find the site here.

Desktop layout

Mobile layout

The site has a handy grid view as well, in addition to the default list view.

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It’s our birthday – 10 years of replacement parts

Image result for vintage 10th birthday

10 years ago today, we listed our first set of Revere Ware replacement parts for sale. Prior to the availability of our parts, there was a 20 year period where new parts were not available at all, as Revere Ware stopped selling any replacement parts in 1989, after being bought by Corning in 1988 (more company history here).

Prior to our parts, the only option for someone looking for the like new look, or to fix a piece that was no longer functional, was a complicated Bakelite refurbishment process that involved repeated sanding with progressively finer sandpaper; very labor intensive, and expensive.

So wish us a happy 10th birthday, and enjoy your Revere Ware for another few decades.

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RIP Revere Ware 1939 – 2018

We wrote last summer that it appears that World Kitchen / Corelle Brands, the owner of the Revere Ware brand, was preparing to ditch the brand altogether.  This is after coming out with a new line or Revere Ware branded cookware back in 2016.

We got a tip off this week from a customer that tried to contact Revere Ware support:

I contacted by phone World Kitchens and talked to a rep about revere ware warranty replacement of a knob on my 3 quart sauce pan.  She said her company no longer represents revere ware or their warranties anymore.  I am interested in the knob replacement you show for the saucepan as that is the exact knob that will no stay on the screw of my saucepan.

If you go to revereware.com, this is what you see:

There is no mention of Revere Ware anywhere on the site anymore.

The Corelle Brands corporate site also no longer has any mention of Revere Ware.

This seems a very unceremonious end to the Revere Ware brand, to be silently disappeared without any public contemplation, explanation, or appreciation.  The Revere Brand was once the most popular cookware brand in the US.

It would appear that we are the last place you can go for any type of Revere Ware support and replacement.

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Large pressure cooker sauce pan

Customer Lenora found this oddity at an estate sale.  It looks like the bottom of a pressure cooker, but without the rim to hold the lid on.

My first thought is that someone got frustrated on not being able to use their pressure cooker for lack of replacement parts, and removed the rim, but Lenora says there are no signs of the rim having been worked by hand.

She says:

From what i can see, The rim doesn’t look manipulated at all and we thought perhaps it was a modified pressure cooker too except that the inside bottoms of this pot does not look anything like the bottoms of the pressure cook.  I’d also like to note we live about 15 minutes from Rome, NY and my dad thought perhaps this was a custom piece a worker may have made just on a whim for themselves?? We’ve scoured the internet and really can’t find anything else like it?

And then there is this auction she found for an identical piece.

Perhaps it was a prototype that never made it to production.  This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen oddities like this that appear to be one of few of a kind.

Both of them have something extra  on the process patent stamp, a “U” on one and a “G” on the other.

I’ve always thought that pressure cookers would make a pretty good sauce pan or stock pot overall, as have pretty thick walls to handle the pressure, so they spread the heat well, and the bottom tend to stay very flat, but the rim is a bit annoying if all you want is a pan as it gets in the way of a lid.  This seems like the best of both worlds.

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