Option 5: Buy Duty Free
Duty-free stores around the world offer cartons of premium brands such as Marlboro for as little as $30.99, or 39% off the common retail price.
However, if you’re thinking of strolling into an airport for tax-exempt smokes, think again. According to Patrick Fleener, an economist with the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, you’ll need an international airline ticket to take advantage of these savings. “You can’t go into a duty-free store in your own country and get the discount,” Fleener says.
Remember to consider the rules and restrictions, which can vary depending on the travel plans. Whether or not you stay at least 48 hours in a foreign land, for instance, can determine the amount of goods you can bring home without a surcharge. DutyFree.com is a good resource for questions.
Option 6: Hit the Road
Road trips can present opportunities to save on cigarettes.
According to Jayson, you’re in no danger of breaking the law if you choose to drive from Boston, Mass., where the state cigarette tax is $2.51, to neighboring Concord, N.H. where that same pack will be taxed at $1.33.
Just don’t get carried away. If you’re caught transporting 10,000 or more cigarettes (that’s 500 packs) across state lines you could go to jail for smuggling under the Patriot Act.
In addition to South Carolina (where the tax is seven cents), the cheapest destinations in terms of state taxes (pdf) include Missouri (17 cents), Mississippi (18 cents) and Virginia (30 cents).
Not an Option: Native American Reservations
Native Americans do not pay taxes on cigarettes purchased on their land, but others are supposed to.
However, not all smokers are willing to pay up. In September 2008, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed a complaint against cigarette dealers on the Poospatuck Indian Reservation in Long Island. These businesses allegedly sold an estimated 24 million cartons of cigarettes to non-Natives on a tax free basis since 2004. (It is estimated that these sales cost New York as much as $720 million in taxes.) The legal battle continues, with a hearing scheduled for May 15.
Failure to pay state and federal income tax is a crime, and while you’re probably not going to be pulled over for smuggling cigarettes out of the Chukchansi Gold Casino in Madera, Calif., it’s probably better to pay a little more for a cigarette than to engage in criminal activity.
Cigarettes in prison, we've heard, are not exactly cheap.
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