Call 12 for Action

Check your receipts: Are you paying sales tax when you shouldn't be?

CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) - When Tom Letourneau bought two pairs of shoes from a catalog, the company, Haband, billed him $56.47 for the loafers and $3.96 for Rhode Island sales tax. 

"I’m not sending them the $3.96 Rhode Island sales tax, and they won’t ship the order unless I do," Letourneau told Call 12 for Action.

According to state law, clothing and footwear that cost $250 dollars or less are exempt from Rhode Island's 7% sales tax.

"Despite four attempts on my part informing this company of what the Rhode Island law is on every day clothing and footwear, they ignored me to the point of rather curt, rude responses," Letourneau said.

Following Call 12 for Action's questions about Letourneau's order, his shoes - sans sales tax - were delivered.

"It was a wakeup call to me," Letourneau said. "How much and how often is this happening?"

Call 12 for Action wanted to know the same thing.

The R.I. Division of Taxation said it is not able to comment on individual taxpayer issues, but cautioned if retailers are attempting to collect sales tax on exempt footwear or clothing, consumers should report it to the agency. If a retailer has already collected the tax improperly, the customer should request a refund from the business.

"If a retailer collects Rhode Island sales tax from customers, but deliberately fails to remit the tax, the retailer would be in violation of Rhode Island law and would be subject to civil and criminal penalties," Tax Administrator Neena Savage explained in an email.

Call 12 for Action reached out to Haband multiple times by phone and email, but never received a response.

According to the Division of Taxation, through April, the state collected about $40 million in sales tax from retailers outside of Rhode Island for fiscal year 2018.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.


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