If you recently purchased a product from a retailer and then later changed your mind and returned that item, the sales tax you paid during your original purchase should be included with your refund.
It’s the law.
But our Chicago consumer rights lawyers continue to learn about retailers who illegally withhold a customer’s sales tax after that person decided to return merchandise.
For instance, Walmart recently admitted to customers and reporters that it had been shortchanging some people who had decided to return merchandise, a practice that spurred consumer fraud lawsuits.
“Every store I go to I have this problem,” one Walmart customer told a reporter from CBS4 in Denver. “I told them about it and the supervisor told me the store manager told them not to refund the difference.”
In that case, the store was sidestepping the customer’s total sale tax refund because that customer had sometimes purchased and returned products from stores in different municipalities. CBS4 confirmed with a local city tax official that, “Errors between jurisdictions are fairly common.”
Elsewhere around the country, The Hartford Courant has chronicled the challenges that some shoppers have in wrangling back their sales tax when they choose to accept a store credit instead of a straight cash return. The legality of the practice is blurred by the fact that Connecticut requires customers to have the original receipt for their purchase in order to received their full sales tax refund along with the cost of whatever they purchased.
Nonetheless, when that state’s retail return stipulations are met, it is illegal for a store to refuse to give back a consumer’s tax. “If the merchandise is returned within 90 days of purchase and the customer presents a dated receipt showing the tax paid, sales tax will be refunded,” Connecticut consumer affairs columnist Kevin Hunt wrote in response to a June 2013 inquiry from a reader about this issue.
Nationwide, consumers report challenges getting back any sales tax they may have been charged for items that were purchased and then returned. In some cases, the problem stems from an online purchase, in which it can be difficult for consumers to track how much sales tax they paid or should have paid. In other cases, just like the man who was quoted above, consumers are stonewalled simply because they choose not to return their products in the exact same store where they were originally purchased.
The bottom line: The law is on the side of responsible consumers who simply want to get their money back for a product about which they changed their mind.
If you’re a consumer who’s haggled with a retailer about refunding your sales tax, or you’ve found a store that consistently refuses to return money that you feel you’re owed, please contact one our consumer rights attorneys in Chicago to explore your legal rights. You can reach our consumer fraud attorneys online or by calling 1 (888) 517-9115.