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Sacramento Sales Tax Snafu: City Rate v County Rate


 Sacramento rate change continues to cause confusion.

The sales tax rate in the city of Sacramento, California, was increased by 0.5% back on April 1, 2013. The rate in the city of Sacramento is now 8.5%, while the Sacramento County sales tax rate remains 8.0%. Months later, this rate change is still causing confusion.

Recently, a gentleman by the name of Frank Miller noticed that Pep Boys, located just outside the Sacramento city limits, erroneously charged him the 8.5% city rate rather than the 8% county rate. When he asked them to refund him the difference, he says they refused: "When I confronted them about it, they were evasive and defensive about it, and said that's what the computer does, and that's all there is to it."

Mr. Miller isn't so much concerned about the cents Pep Boys owes him. Rather, he is concerned there may be collusion, that "someone is skimming the difference between 8 percent and 8.5 percent…."

California State Board of Equalization Deputy Director Jaime Garza said the BOE is investigating the issue. However, he pointed out that confusion sometimes arises when there are rate changes: "Generally, retailers are doing the right thing. We find once in a while when the rates change there may be some confusion, and we understand that honest mistakes happen."

In fact, this very mistake has happened before. The Sacramento International Airport branches of Avis/Budget and Hertz Car Rentals were caught overcharging customers earlier this summer. It was, as Mr. Garza predicted, an honest mistake. The city rate was being charged in spite of the fact that the airport is located in the county.

If you think you've been charged too much sales tax in California, Mr. Garza encourages you both to notify the BOE and to speak directly to the retailer. When too much sales tax has been collected, the retailer "is required to give that customer a refund, the difference."

And if you've been shopping at Pep Boys located on the 2500 block of Arden Way, check your receipts.

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Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.