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California tax officials target breeders via Internet

June 29, 2009
By: Timothy Kirn
For The VIN News Service


California tax officials are surfing — the Internet, that is.

It is not unusual for authorities, potential employers, bankers and others to use the Internet to investigate people.

And now California tax officials are targeting potential breeders that way. 

According to a letter from the California Board of Equalization, board officials visited the American Kennel Club Web site and linked to individual dog clubs to identify potential breeders living in the state.

Board officials are not sure if these dog club members are breeders, but they could be.

Tax board spokeswoman Anita Gore confirmed that 361 individuals will receive the letter. She would not say how or why those particular individuals were identified, however.

Gore also said the board was unapologetic about using the Internet to identify potential breeders. The Internet is a research tool, like any other, and a fairly popular one, she said.

Though a few blogs have speculated that the state might be groping gracelessly for funds with this effort, due to the California government's financial distress, Gore said the letters are a typical education and outreach effort that the board periodically makes.

Breeders are in the spotlight because "quite often people who sell animals are not aware of this tax obligation,” Gore said.

According to California tax law, anyone who sells more than two animals a year must have a seller’s permit and pay the state a sales tax. 

Fifty letters have been sent out so far, Gore said. The rest will be mailed in the coming weeks. The letter states that the recipient must respond and let the board know whether he or she has a permit, would like to apply for one or does not need one because he or she does not sell animals.

Board members have received no complaints about the letters, Gore said. But at least a few are concerned.

Dawn Capp, an attorney and animal advocate, said the fact that the board has used the American Kennel Club Web site and other dog club Web sites is going to upset some people who will ask not to be listed so they cannot be targeted. That will limit resources for the general public, as people visit club Web sites searching for information and help.

“It definitely is going to have a chilling effect on information,” said Capp, founder of the Coalition of Human Advocates for K9s and Owners (CHAKO).

Capp posted a notice about the letters on the CHAKO blog and alerted a number of other bloggers about the issue, who have also posted notices.

Capp said it is heavy-handed of the state to target people just because they are members of a dog club. She also said that when she called the board, she was told that it will pursue people who do not respond to the first letter with a second letter and might investigate if that second letter is ignored.

“The problem is that this is a very Big-Brother type of mentality,” she said. “They don’t know whether anyone is a breeder. There are all kinds of dog clubs out there. It sends the message that you are presumed guilty until proven innocent.”




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