COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Thousands, if not millions of dollars that should be in the pockets of people who purchased groceries in York County this year may wind up going to repair bridges and roads.
When the county re-imposed a capital projects tax, it also voted to make unprepared food items tax exempt. Retailers like Walmart, Harris Teeter, BI-LO, Lowes Foods and Compare Foods all charged the sales tax to some degree. BI-LO stopped in March and the others stopped after they were informed of the error by NewsChannel 36.
Samantha Cheek of the South Carolina Department of Revenue said, “While stores may claim that they did not know about the change to the tax law that does not mean they are not responsible. The retailer is responsible for that. They’re the ones who submit their sales taxes monthly to the Department of Revenue,” said Cheek.
Some of the retailers, like Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods, also started to make refunds to customers who have their receipts or used their customer loyalty cards. Walmart said that any customers who bring in a sales receipt showing the incorrect sales tax will be refunded.
NewsChannel 36 asked the Department of Revenue what happens to funds that were incorrectly collected and cannot be traced back to a customer with either a receipt or loyalty card. The SC DOR said in that case the money would still be sent to them as part of the Capital Projects Tax and would then be used to fund bridge and road repairs.
“Excess funds that are collected, those would continue to be sent to go to enforce the capital projects tax in the county,” Cheek said.