There is no Best Buy in Tuba City

| February 25 2012
Hannah Thoreson

Tuba City has the highest sales tax in the U.S.

There is no Best Buy in Tuba City, and our Arizona readers probably know there’s no Starbucks, Wal-Mart or Verizon Wireless.  What Tuba City does have is a general store and the highest sales tax in the nation:  13.725%.

Vans Trading Co. has been around since 1946, but it’s only in the last decade that customers at the Tuba City general store have yelled at the cashiers after they get their receipts.

That’s because Vans is in the town with the highest sales tax in the nation and the town, in turn, is in the state with the second-highest combined sales tax burden in the nation, according to two recent reports.

“After we ring up the total in the product and the tax comes up, they’re not happy with it,” said Vans owner Lucky Mokhcia. “But I tell them I have no control over that.

“They just yell at my cashiers,” he said. “They’re saying it’s too much.”

Indeed, if there were a Best Buy in Tuba City, a $1200 computer would come with a $164.70 tax bill.  You may have wanted to throw your printer over a freeway overpass at one point or another.  For $164.70, you could douse that plastic box of frustration, overpriced cartridges, and chewed up paper with gasoline, and set it on fire.  That’s how destructive a tax like this is.  

Located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, Tuba City has been plagued with poverty as long as it has existed.  A high sales tax is probably not the biggest problem on many residents’ minds, but it exacerbates a bad situation.  The lack of retail stores, and the high cost of shopping at the few choices consumers have is one issue.  Many residents will drive to Flagstaff for larger purchases to avoid the tax.  For people who are already likely to be pressed for time and money, an 80-mile drive is a massive inconvenience.

Arizona now has the second highest average sales tax rate in the nation.

“They have a tendency to lean toward the sales tax because they view that to be the least offensive,” McCarthy said. “As a result, that’s where we’ve gone and we continue to go back to the well.”

While the suburbs of Phoenix are unlikely to be devoid of Starbucks, strip malls, and consumerism at any point in the near future, it’s hard not to look at the abandoned spaces in downtown areas and shopping malls and wonder if the high sales taxes are making things more difficult for retailers in Arizona.

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