Lawmakers say may more need to be done to alert stores to local sales tax changes

Georgia shoppers who have been overcharged for sales tax can report the problem to the state Department of Revenue.

But some Dalton shoppers recently expressed surprise that the state doesn't do more to monitor tax collections.

"I'm not sure that I'd even notice if the sales tax was a little off on a small purchase," said Dalton resident Jack Estes.

The 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county, expired on June 30. The sales tax rate was supposed to fall to 6% from 7% on July 1. But some Whitfield County businesses continued to charge the SPLOST tax for weeks afterward.

A receipt sent by a customer to the Daily Citizen-News showed that the Bargain Hunt on East Walnut Avenue was continuing to charge 7% tax at least through Aug. 13.

"As soon as corporate was notified, we corrected the issue," said Angie Clark, controller at Bargain Hunt. "We would be happy to make a refund to any customer. They can bring a receipt to the store, and we'll be glad to make a refund."

Clark said corporate headquarters was not aware of the change in the tax rate until after it took place.

"I don't know if a notice was sent (in advance) to the store or to somewhere else," she said. "We have hundreds and hundreds (of tax rates) across the nation that we have to keep up with."

Local McDonald's restaurants also continued to charge 7% for a week after the 2015 SPLOST expired. The local franchiser said the issue was corrected after it was brought to his attention and offered refunds to those who brought in their receipts.

William Gaston, press officer with the Georgia Department of Revenue, said retailers are notified by email of tax changes before they take effect and the information is also posted to the department's website.

State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, owner of the Oakwood Cafe, said he can't recall getting a notification from the Department of Revenue about changes in tax rates.

"I know what they are from knowing what the vote was and from reading the newspapers," he said.

Is that sufficient?

"I've never heard of a problem before you called, to be honest," said state Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton.

Both Carpenter and Payne said they can't recall the legislature looking into whether the state does enough to alert businesses to changes in sales tax rates or tracks whether businesses are complying with the law. They said they'd be willing to look into the issue when the next session starts in January.

"I'll be happy to start asking those questions," said Payne.

"That's something we could look into," Carpenter said.

Asked how the Department of Revenue tracks whether businesses are collecting too much sales tax, Gaston said shoppers can report the problem at dor.georgia.gov/webform/fraud-referral-form.

He said anyone who has been overcharged sales tax can request a refund from the seller. If the seller will not provide a refund, they can request one by filling out and sending in forms ST-12 and ST-12B, which can be found at dor.georgia.gov/documents/sales-and-use-tax-refund-claim-forms.

Gaston said as long as a business is sending those funds to the state there is no penalty for collecting too much revenue.

According to the Department of Revenue's website, there are 185,661 businesses collecting sales tax in the state, and 1,694 collecting sales tax in Whitfield County.

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