What Does It Mean to Assume a Debt ?
Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-9-4(a)(2) states "except as provided in IC 6-2.5-7, a person who: . . . offers to assume or absorb part of a customer's state gross retail or use tax on a sale . . . commits a class B infraction." IND. CODE 6-2.5-9-4(a)(2).
The Indiana Legislature, however, has not defined the words "assume" or "absorb," therefore this Court must give each word its common and ordinary meaning. See LDI Mfg. Co., Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Comm'rs, 759 N.E.2d 685, 689 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2001) (citing IND. CODE 1-1-4-1(1)); Tucker v. State, 646 N.E.2d 972, 975 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995).
In determining the common and ordinary meaning of a word, this Court may look to the dictionary. May Dept. Stores Co. v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 749 N.E.2d 651, 661 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2001).
Blacks' Law Dictionary indicates that "to assume" a debt is to take it for or on oneself. See BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 120 (7th ed. 1999) (defining "assume" as "the act of taking (esp. someone else's debt or other obligation) for or on oneself").
Thus, a party who assumes a sales tax takes the obligation of paying the tax for or on himself. See id. In other words, a party who assumes a sales tax accepts legal liability for the ultimate payment of the tax. See id.
Absorption, on the other hand, is where a seller pays certain costs owed by a purchaser, which the seller accounts for prior to quoting the purchaser a price. See id. at 8.
Hence, a seller who absorbs a sales tax excludes it from the price of the goods sold. See id.