Is it illegal to sell something on craigslist without adding a regions value added tax?

I don't think that this is a question which could be answered in general. Every jurisdiction would have specific regulations. But a moderator answered the question rather than closing it.

Shouldn't it be closed for being unclear? (Or maybe there could be a close reason saying that questions like this need to specify a jurisdiction.)

I know that there are some questions which say "interested primarily in the US, but interested in other jurisdictions too", which makes sense. And there are some questions which are likely to have very similar answers in all jurisdictions. But for this kind of question I don't think there would be any reason to think there's a general answer, and the mod's answer makes no attempt to give a global overview.

3 Answers 3


I agree there is an argument from a Stack Exchange policy perspective for closing this sort of question because each answer for a different jurisdiction could be correct, and we don't like questions that have multiple correct answers (even though we encourage multiple answers per question, so not sure how to reconcile that secondary objective with the primary directive).

But then theory runs into practice and it doesn't seem like that ideal is sustainable. For example: Suppose we think that the underlying question – say, "Do I need to collect taxes when selling personal items?" – is a really great question of worldwide interest. Do we want to have a few hundred instances of the same question? E.g.,

  1. Do I need to collect taxes when selling personal items in the U.S.?
  2. Do I need to collect taxes when selling personal items in the U.K.?
  3. Do I need to collect taxes when selling personal items in Canada?
  4. Etc.?

This is sort of an unresolved matter, but certainly at this stage I think it would be not only presumptuous but also hopeless to pursue the "separate question for each jurisdiction" approach because we only have good answerers from a few large jurisdictions. So we would end up with a morass of unanswered questions. And if the question is good for the U.S. isn't it "just as good" for, say, Singapore? It would only seem fair to have each instance voted up equally. Keep in mind: The site has only been in operation for five months, during which we have accumulated 1,300 questions, and we are struggling to maintain a high answer rate. If we required a separate question for every jurisdiction of interest we'd immediately be contemplating an increase in the number of questions by at least an order of magnitude, with a corresponding decrease in the answer rate.

The custom so far on Law.SE has been to allow answers for different jurisdictions, even when a specific jurisdiction was specified, and especially when the answers for unspecified jurisdictions are particularly illuminating.

Another common practice is for someone to ask in a comment what jurisdiction is involved. Again, that doesn't shut down answers for other jurisdictions, because it appears that everybody is happy knowing something applicable to the question if the alternative is having nothing because there is no expert in the desired jurisdiction.

I just don't see any practical alternative to the current customs. And it does seem to be illuminating to have experts from multiple jurisdictions providing good answers, especially when the desired jurisdiction may not have anyone with expertise to answer.

  • The custom so far on Law.SE has been to allow answers for different jurisdictions, even when a specific jurisdiction was specified, and especially when the answers for unspecified jurisdictions are particularly illuminating. — Is this still true in 2020?
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 8:07
  • 1
    @Ooker Yes, still true.
    – feetwet Mod
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 14:25

To clarify the moderator involvement here: The current moderators have agreed to avoid voting to close when there appears to be reasonable room for debate, because a moderator can't "vote": a moderator close has immediate effect and so it stymies the development of community norms and participation, and can seem heavy-handed. For this reason you will often see a moderator comment suggesting that a post is defective and explaining why, but leaving it open for review and/or correction by the community.

To my knowledge the current moderators have never reversed community votes. Therefore the fact that a moderator has posted an answer should not be taken as an endorsement of the suitability of the question any more than an answer by other community members.

The moderators are active users, but we do our best to disclaim any more authority than any other active user. All current moderators explicitly committed to minimalist/laissez-faire moderation. Furthermore, we go out of our way to explain our actions, accept criticism, and avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest.

So, for example, in the question cited you should feel free to vote to close. If you leave a comment, that upvote it gets could very well be from the moderator who posted the answer!

  • That sounds fair! Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 14:57

A great many questions on Law beta have no jurisdiction mentioned in the body or tags. While this would be nice, it's not always possible nor necessary. Also, keep in mind, that term means different things depending on the situation. In the U.S. that means what state you are in, or it means whether a federal vs state court has the right to hear a case. In comparative law, or international law circles, it can mean what country they are in. So, when jurisdiction is relevant, I try to simply ask something like "where is this taking place" or "where are you". It is always better to simply get the information you feel is missing and have it appear in the comments, or edit if you have the capability, than to vote to close. Also, not every country had a tag last time I checked. Many, but not all.

Sometimes knowing the jurisdiction is necessary to answer the question, because the answer will differ based on where the case/fact pattern arises, and in some cases, it may even differ by location within jurisdiction (such as local housing laws).

Other questions are pedantic and are seeking such commonly understood legal theories that the principal exists across jurisdictional borders and hence it's a distinction without meaning (e.g., "What are the elements of negligence?"). When a question is posed where the answer is jurisdictionally dependent, I simply place a comment seeking the jurisdiction be specified.

It is very likely that the asker may be so unfamiliar with legal principals, generally, as to not realize that this is relevant. Regardless, under no circumstances would I consider failing to list a jurisdiction as a reason to close an otherwise comprehensible question.

If someone answers when there is no jurisdiction listed, it will often be that they either feel it is not of substantial importance, or they too don't realize the answer many differ by jurisdiction so they are answering the question based on their own home rule. Oftentimes when this happens, (for example someone answers based on U.S.) the asker will tell them they need it to be relevant to another place, or ask them if the same holds true for another place.

Regardless, if it turns out that the question/answer requires editing to add a jurisdiction, I have faith in the community to note this and request it. As far as multiple correct answers, I see this as a benefit rather than a hindrance (e.g.: in the U.S. the answer is X; in the EU it is Y; in AU it is Z, etc.). Because while we are trying to answer an individual's specific inquiry, the hope is the information will exist in perpetuity to guide others when they have similar issues.

As far as how many votes a question/answer gets, to me, this is not really very important and should definitely not be a consideration for whether a question that could generate multiple answers should be closed.

If you look back at the law questions, we would have to close a great many questions for lack of listing where they are originating, if this were a closure criteria.

Closing questions for being unclear should be reserved for those questions with so little effort put into them that nobody could possibly analyze the issue posed because it lacks most of the necessary information. Not because one single factor is overlooked.

To address the fact that it was a moderator who answered, that is not different from any other user. This is a community run and monitored site, for the most part. Their answers get voted on just as any other, and they are volunteering to oversee the rare instance of an issue that cannot be policed by the community. It is not that they cannot be questioned: they can and they are. In fact, they are likely to be more open to criticism or amendment then other users.

  • 1
    I disagree, because closing/putting on hold should be used as a temporary measure to improve questions. Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 4:12
  • 3
    not for something as small as this. If it were, the mods would have to put half the questions on hold...that is if the community agreed by voting...but they don't because it doesn't happen. It takes 5 or 6 votes
    – gracey209
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 4:13

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