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News that Ucore Rare Metals is proceeding to the next step in its process toward developing a mine at its Bokan Mountain/Dotson Ridge property on the southeast coast of Prince of Wales Island should be viewed positively — despite coming at a difficult time for the rare earth element mining sector.

Letty Eileen Cole, 93, died on Oct. 15, 2014, in Ketchikan.
Susan Marie Mallott Patrick, 58, died Oct. 11, 2014, in Ketchikan.
Daniel Edward Hines, 47, died Oct. 11, 2014, in Juneau after a nine-month battle with brain cancer.
Correct approach

It is appropriate that the borough effectively penalize businesses refusing to pay sales taxes.

Most businesses pay their taxes, recognizing that those taxes help to pay for the borough services enjoyed by the community. Law-abiding businesses do their part.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly is considering whether to seek jail time for merchants who refuse to cooperate with a forced sales tax filing. A forced filing is when a merchant fails to file a sales tax return; then the borough cannot determine what the merchant owes in taxes. The merchant usually has either falsified the books or kept poor accounts. Borough staff estimates the value of sales handled by the merchant and requests the appropriate sales tax from those sales.

The current penalty for noncompliance is a $50 fine, which can be increased to $250 in repeated cases.

The borough's proposed code would allow it to add up to 90 days jail time to the possible penalties for merchants failing to pay taxes.

Officials note that the penalties wouldn't be applied to businesses that couldn't afford to pay their sales taxes, but only to those that could afford and refused to — utterly failing to cooperate with the borough.

Sales tax is set above the price of items merchants sell, although in some instances businesses pay those taxes for various reasons for customers. It is set by local elected bodies, i.e., the Borough Assembly, to generate revenue to pay for the amenities in the community.

The tax is rightfully the borough's and by relationship the community's. Businesses should pay it as long as it is the law.

Equally important is that the borough target the lawbreakers and not allow those refusing to pay to prompt new code that would make doing business more difficult for businesses following the law.