Whoever said crime doesn’t pay is an idiot. It doesn’t matter exactly who told you — your mom and dad, the D.A.R.E. officer that visited your homeroom in 5th grade, the Goddamn Batman. They are fools. When it comes to dealing drugs, crime not only pays, but it pays well. Like yacht-buying well. Like two-high-class-hookers-a-night well. Like the-ability-to-buy-off-the-entire-Mexican-government-and-half-of-the-DEA well.
But there’s a problem. Actually, two of them. One, if you commit a heinous enough crime and get convicted, it’s a one-way trip to PYITA prison. And two, you have to pay taxes on all the drugs you sell.
That’s right, kids. Drug dealers have to pay taxes on their drugs. And if they don’t, well, they can be fined up to $10,000 and get up to five years in the pokey.
For those of us who have a hard time understanding how a dealer would pay taxes, Adrienne Fairwell of the S.C. Department of Revenue offers an explanation. “They would come in like if they had made a purchase on the internet,” Fairwell says. “If I made a purchase on the internet and I was not charged a use tax or a sales tax, I would walk into one of the district offices at the Department of Revenue and remit the tax amount on whatever purchase I made. That stamp works the same way.”
Wait. You’ve got to pay taxes on internet purchases? Yikes. And what’s this about a stamp? Do dealers have to place stamps on their baggies too? No, says Fairwell. “A stamp simply means paperwork or any type of letterhead, something saying that they had remit the appropriate tax amount on whatever the substance is,” she says.
But how does a dealer know how much to pay? It’s not like a would-be Tony Montana is going to march down to the Revenue Department with all of his stash in hand. Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. One, dealers are not required to give their names, addresses, Social Security numbers, or any other identifying information when paying their drug-dealing taxes. Two, dealers also are not required to actually show any proof that they have, let’s say, three kilos of Colombian snow back at their South of Broad crib. And three, the state is absolutely clear on how much a dealer has to pay: $3.50 for every gram or less of marijuana, $200 for every gram of a controlled substance, and $2,000 for every 50 dosage units that are not sold by weight.
Before you scoff at all of this, consider this: In fiscal year 2007-2008, the Revenue Department collected $214 from dealers, according to Fairwell. That’s right. At least one dealer paid the state a portion of his profits.
Now, all of this doesn’t mean that dealing drugs is legal in the Palmetto State. Don’t be stupid. But what it does mean is this: If the police catch you dealing and you don’t have proof that you’ve paid your taxes, then, well, that’s another charge against you.
You know, on second thought, maybe crime doesn’t pay after all.
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.