Open forum: A Business Decides How It Wants to Be Paid, Not the Government

Dear Source:

Taxi cabs on St. Thomas (File photo)
Taxi cabs on St. Thomas (File photo)

Bill 33-0098 amending Title 12A of the Virgin Islands Code by adding a new chapter 8 requiring that businesses offer at least two payment options to their customers, and matters related thereto, is inconsistent with federal law and is therefore not enforceable.

A state statute is void to the extent that it actually conflicts with a valid Federal statute. Edgar v. MITE Corp., 457 U.S. 624 (1982), When an Act of Congress touches a field in which the federal interest is so dominant the federal system will be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject. Pennsylvania v. Nelson, 350 U.S. 497 (1956).

“United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts.” Section 5103 of Title 31, United States Code.

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This statute means that all United States money as identified above is a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept currency or coins as payment for goods or services. “Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether to accept cash unless there is a state law which says otherwise.” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

There are no federal laws saying that cash-only businesses must accept other payment methods from customers and since Section 5103 of title 31, United States Code touches a field in which the federal interest is so dominant the Legislature of the Virgin Islands has no legal authority to enact new law mandating that “A business shall offer at least two (2) payment options to a customer, and one of the payment options must be credit or debit card.”

The Legislature of the Virgin Islands has power to enact new laws not inconsistent with any law of the United States applicable to the Virgin Islands. 48 U.S.C. § 1574.

A merchant is legally entitled to demand any form of payment they wish. If they demand cash, this is their right. If they demand some other form of payment this is also their right.

Stores and restaurants in several states would be required to do something pretty basic if certain lawmakers have their way: accept their customers’ cash.

The legislation comes amid a worldwide move toward cashless payments using cards or mobile devices, which supporters say are safer, quicker and more convenient. But critics say an outright ban on cash discriminates against those without credit or bank accounts, and Pg.2 raises concerns about privacy and data security.

The New Jersey Legislature and the Philadelphia City Council have passed measures this year that would ban cashless stores. New York City, Washington, San Francisco and Chicago are weighing similar bills.

“It’s important to recognize the fact that not everyone has access to banks or lines of credit,” said State Senator Nellie Pou, one of the sponsors of the bill in New Jersey.”

Banning cash-only businesses:
Bill 33-0098 is clearly proposed legislation banning cash-only businesses, including taxis, in the guise of protecting customers from fraudulent business practice. This Supplemental Bill leaves no doubt that taxis are included in the Bill’s definitions of “Business” and “Payment Options” in §§ 451 and 452.

§ 451. Definitions
For purposes of this chapter:
(a) “Business” means any individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, joint
venture, corporation or other business entity formed for profit-making purposes, including
retail establishments where goods or services or both are sold as well as professional
corporations, and any other business entity where legal, medical, dental or other professional
services are provided.

§452. Payment Options
“(a) (1) A business shall offer at least two (2) payment options to a customer, and 12
one of the payment options must be credit or debit card.”

Neither Bill 33-0044 nor Bill 33-0098 is enforceable in that both are inconsistent with federal law regarding private businesses freedom to develop their own policies as to the form of payment they will accept for services provided. There is no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept any particular form of payment for goods or services. If Congress wanted to, they would have enacted such a statute.

Kelvin Dennie (Taxi Driver), St. Thomas

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  1. This is true. There is no statute prohibiting cash-only businesses. However, all cash transactions must be recorded, and appropriate tax must be paid to IRB. In the case of cash-only businesses, the IRB would scrutinize them more carefully than those businesses with additional, measurable forms of payment. And since the IRB does not have a good history of collecting even measurable taxes, eg. Property tax, income tax, the cash-only businesses are in little danger of being regulated or audited. The IRB does not want to work that hard. It is the businesses who keep good records, and who pay their taxes, who will most likely be the target of any IRB audits. They are the easy targets, and the economic drivers of this society.

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