Jul 012014
 
Zip2Tax sales tax calculator app

The Zip2Tax Sales Tax Calculator is now available as a free download on Google Play. The app is free to use for any Zip2Tax customer with an Online Lookup account or just call 866-492-8494 for a free trial today.

The Zip2Tax mobile sales and use tax calculator can find the general sales or use tax rate for any U.S. address, including your current location instantly and figure the tax for any dollar amount while you are on the go.

The app is free to download and, after a signup where you create an account with Zip2Tax, LLC, your first 15 days is free to use the app’s features without any obligation. No credit card is required and you will not be billed anything after the trial period expires if you do not wish to purchase a subscription.  Google Play

With this mobile app you can look up sales or use tax rates at your current location as determined by your phone’s GPS so you don’t need to be precisely sure where you are standing to get a fairly accurate rate, or, you can punch in a ZIP code to see a listing of the possible matching tax jurisdictions. The Zip2Tax app also features PinPoint lookups for users needing a full street address match for exact door step accuracy.

With a Zip2Tax Online Lookup subscription you also get access to full browser-based lookups via the Zip2Tax.com website, live U.S. based customer service, help with common sales tax related questions, and news and updates on sales and use tax issues affecting businesses in the U.S and Canada.

It would help us out if you could take a moment to rate this app, and we would appreciate it very much if you would leave feedback. We do read feedback and try to provide solutions to problems or make improvements whenever possible.

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Jul 312014
 

Retailers do not usually charge customers more sales tax than the law requires. But that is precisely what Dell Computer did to at least two customers in Rhode Island. This led to more than ten years of litigation, and according to a June 27 decision by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, the case will not end anytime soon.

The two customers purchased their computers from Dell in 2000. One was a business purchase, the other for personal use. Dell charged both customers Rhode Island sales tax not only on the computers, but also the extended warranty offered as a separate option. In 2003, the customers filed a class action against Dell, arguing they were improperly charges sales tax on “nontaxable services.” The customers alleged Dell was negligent in failing to calculate the correct sales tax, and the extra charges constituted an “unfair and deceptive trade practice” under Rhode Island law.

In 2005, Rhode Island’s Division of Taxation advised Dell, “[t]he charge for the optional service, maintenance, or extended warranty contract is not subject to tax when such a charge is separately stated by the retailer to the purchaser.” As Dell did, in fact, separately charge each customer for their service contract, the division concluded the additional sales tax was improper.

Meanwhile, it took nearly six years for the Rhode Island courts to resolve various preliminary issues surrounding the class action. In 2009, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions allowing the case to proceed. In 2012, a Superior Court judge granted summary judgment to Dell, finding there were no triable issues for a jury to decide.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court partially reversed the Superior Court. The five-judge court unanimously held Dell should prevail on the negligence claim, as the company “did not owe a legal duty to plaintiffs regarding the collection of taxes.” The justices split 4 – 1 on the unfair and deceptive trade practices claim. The majority said a jury could find Dell’s improper sales tax charges “offended public policy, was immoral, unethical, oppressive, or unscrupulous, and caused substantial injury to consumers.” One justice dissented, arguing “it defies common sense” to say Dell, in a good-faith effort to collect Rhode Island’s sales tax, acted illegally.

The majority’s decision only revives the claim of the customer who purchased a computer for individual use. Rhode Island’s unfair and deceptive trade practices law does not apply to business purchases.

S.M. Oliva is a writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia. He edits the international legal blog Bonham’s Cases.

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Jul 312014
 

Sales and/or use tax rates have changed in in Zip2Tax products in Arizona and Louisiana since July 2014.

In Arizona,  tax rates changed for Tempe.

In Louisiana, tax rates changed for Colfax and the parishes of Jefferson Davis, Lafourche and Union.

There were 13 states with ZIP code changes effective after July 2014 including Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Download the full ZIP code change documentation.

Angel Sauer

Angel Sauer, sales tax research team leader

 

 

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Jul 312014
 

Lodging sales taxMany state and local governments impose special sales taxes on hotel rooms. Often called “lodging” or “occupancy” taxes, hotels must assess these levies against the price charged for a room. But what about travelers who book and pay for their rooms online using a third-party website like Expedia or Priceline? These online travel companies (OTCs) make money by paying the hotel less than the customer pays for the room. For example, if the OTC charges the customer $100 for a room, the hotel might receive $70, with the OTC keeping the remaining $30 as its fee.

Local governments understandably want to collect lodging taxes on the full $100. But their ability to do so depends on the wording of each locality’s tax laws. Recently, a state appeals court in Colorado rejected Denver’s efforts to collect its “lodger’s tax” from OTCs. The court said the tax ordinance, as written, did not apply to the specific services provided by these companies.

The city and county of Denver impose a 10.75% tax on lodging. Historically, Denver never collected this lodger’s tax on travel agents or other companies that aided travelers in making hotel reservations. But in 2010, Denver’s finance manager decided to assess lodger’s taxes against several OTCs. An administrative hearing officer upheld the manager’s decision and said the OTCs were liable for more than $8.1 million in unpaid lodger’s taxes dating back to 2001. A Colorado district court later reduced this award, holding the city could only collect about $3.5 million owed for the previous three years.

On July 3 of this year, the Colorado Court of Appeals went further than the district court and held Denver could not collect any lodger’s taxes from the OTCs. Judge Anthony J. Navarro, writing for a unanimous three-judge appeals panel, said Denver’s tax only applied to “vendors,” which meant those businesses “who actually furnishe[d] lodging.” The OTCs argued they only served as an intermediary between customers and lodging vendors; they do not provide any lodging themselves. Navarro agreed. At best, he said, the Denver tax ordinance was “ambiguous” on this point, and the law must be “strictly construed” in favor of the OTCs.

Navarro noted courts in Florida, Missouri and Texas held similar hotel taxes did not apply to OTC services. That does not mean such taxes can never apply, however, only that local governments must expressly amend their laws to cover OTC services.

See also: D.C. can collect sales tax on online hotel bookings

S.M. Oliva is a writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia. He edits the international legal blog Bonham’s Cases.

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Jul 152014
 

Since 1996 when New York State enacted the first sales tax holiday, similar initiatives have gained popularity in a growing number of states. Typically, sales tax holidays last for a weekend—usually in the beginning of August to coincide with back-to-school sales—and items such as school supplies, books, and clothing are included in the temporary tax break.

North Carolina Back To School Sales Tax

North Carolina is not holding a Back To School sales tax holiday this year.

However, like all other tax exemptions, sales tax holidays come at an expense and the state of North Carolina has recently decided that the costs are too high to justify. The state’s sales tax holiday was first implemented in 2002 and was scheduled to take effect during the first weekend in August. It included items such as clothing, footwear, school supplies, sporting equipment, and computers. According to a notice posted by the North Carolina Department of Revenue, none of these will qualify for the annual tax holiday.

The repealing of the sales tax holiday represents just one aspect of a large scale budget overhaul negotiated by state lawmakers in recent weeks. The incentive is straightforward: repealing the tax holiday is estimated to save North Carolina more than $13 million in lost revenue, a sizable amount of money for a state struggling to balance its budget.

The state sales tax in North Carolina is presently 4.75%, but in most districts the actual rate hovers around 7%.  Since the average parent with children in school is expected to shell out a sizeable amount of money on school supplies in the upcoming weeks, the new policy will be felt by large number of North Carolina families.

Even without the tax holiday, there is some good news on the horizon for North Carolina residents in need of school supplies. That’s because retailers are reaching out to consumers directly, offering back-to-school sales under the banner of “Better Than Tax Free” to fill the void left by the tax holiday.

For example, the Concord Mills outlet will offer all consumers a 10% discount on their purchases during the weekend of July 25 –27, which is an ever greater incentive for consumers than the past sales tax holidays. So even though the tax holiday may have been repealed, residents can still take advantage of lower prices by choosing to shop in Concord, North Carolina, during this weekend promotion. Alternatively, consumers can benefit from sales tax holidays by shopping in the neighboring states of South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee during the weekend of August 1-3.

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Jul 152014
 

Back to school sales tax holidayEleven states have already announced that they will be holding their annual Back To School sales tax holidays in August. Here is an up-to-date list of the dates for the various tax holidays as well as a summary of what’s exempted from the usual state taxes.

Alabama: August 1-3. The tax holiday includes clothing (<$100 per item); computers, computer software, and computer supplies (<$750 per item); school supplies, school art supplies, and school instructional material (<$50 per item).

Arkansas: August 1-3. Clothing (<$100 per item); clothing accessories or equipment (<$750 per item); school supplies, school art supplies, and school instructional materials (<$50 per item).

Connecticut: August 17-23. Clothing (<$300 per item); shoes (<$300 per item).

Florida: August 1-3. Clothing, shoes, and accessories (<$75 per item); school supplies (<$15 per item); computers and computer accessories (<$750 per item)

Georgia: August 1-2. School supplies and school instructional materials (<$20 per item); clothing and shoes (<$100 per item); computers and computers software (<$1,000 per item)

Louisiana: August 1-2. The Louisiana sales tax holiday is one of the most expansive and includes far more than school supplies, clothing, and computers:  “The exemption applies statewide to all consumer purchases of tangible personal property, other than vehicles subject to license and title and meals furnished for consumption on the premises where purchased, including to-go orders, provided that the property is not for use in a business, trade, or profession.”

Missouri: August 1-3. Clothing (<$100 per item); school supplies (<$50 per purchase), computer software (taxable value of <$350); personal computers (<$3,500); computer peripheral devices (<$3,500).

New Mexico: August 2-4. Clothing and shoes (<$100 per unit); desktop, laptop, tablets, or notebook computers (<$1,000 per item); computer hardware (<$500); school supplies for use in standard classrooms (<$30 per unit).

Tennessee: August 1-3. Clothing ($100 or less); school supplies ($100 or less); and computers ($1,500 or less).

Texas: August 8-10. Clothing; school supplies; shoes; and backpacks (<$100 per item)

Virginia: August 1-3. School supplies (<$20 per item); clothing and footwear (<$100 per item).

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Jul 142014
 
CSX versus Alabama Department of Revenue

The U.S. Supreme Court will re-hear a case between the Alabama Department of Revenue and CSX Transportation. The railroad disputes Alabama’s policy of charging them but not their competitors the state’s 4% sales and use tax on diesel fuel.

Before adjourning for the summer, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an important sales and use tax case when it returns in the fall. This will actually be the second time the justices address a dispute between the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Revenue and CSX Transportation, one of the nation’s largest railroad companies. In 2011, the Court reinstated CSX’s lawsuit challenging Alabama’s policy of charging the railroad, but not its competitors, a 4% sales and use tax on diesel fuel. CSX subsequently won its challenge before the lower courts, so now Alabama has asked the Supreme Court to reverse in its favor.

Although sales and use taxes are normally a state matter, the federal Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (known as the 4-R Act) preempts a state from imposing any “tax that discriminates against a rail carrier.” CSX’s complaint here is Alabama’s 4% sales and use tax does not apply to either interstate water carriers—who are exempt under a 1959 state law—or trucking companies that purchase fuel for road vehicles, which instead pay a 19¢-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. CSX argues these exemptions amount to illegal discrimination under the 4-R Act.

The lower courts initially dismissed CSX’s lawsuit on the grounds the 4-R Act could not be used to challenge “exemptions” to a general sales tax law. Three years ago, the Supreme Court rejected that argument and said the lawsuit could proceed. A majority of the Court did not take a position on whether CSX proved Alabama’s rules were discriminatory. Two justices, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote in a separate opinion they believed Alabama’s rules did not violate the 4-R Act.

Thomas and Ginsburg said a tax discriminates only if it “targets or singles out railroads as compared to other commercial and industrial taxpayers.” Alabama endorses this approach. CSX argues a tax discriminates if it favors a “railroads’ competitors.” The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals adopted this view in its July 2013 ruling for CSX, which is now before the Supreme Court. The Obama Administration also weighed in, at the Court’s request, and said the justices should consider whether “other aspects of the state’s tax scheme” might justify the disparate tax treatment afforded railroads.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from all parties when its new term begins this October. A final decision is expected by early 2015.

S.M. Oliva is a writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia. He edits the international legal blog Bonham’s Cases.

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Jul 012014
 

Sales and/or use tax rates have changed in Zip2Tax products in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont since June 2014.

In Alabama,  tax rates changed for Pleasant Grove, Parrish, Castleberry, Eva and Graysville.

In Arkansas, tax rates changed for Bella Vista, Bradford, Fort Smith, Horatio, Mountain Home, Searcy, Stuttgart, Calhoun County and Yell County.

In Georgia, tax rates changed for Pickens County.

In Colorado, tax rates changed for Estes Park, Keenesburg, Gypsum and Montrose.

In Illinois, tax rates changed Batavia, Carbondale, Carpentersville, Edwardsville, Forest Park, Franklin Park, Lebanon, Loves Park, Midlothian, Pleasant Plains, Sparta, Stillman Valley, Tinley Park, Winfield and the counties of Fulton, Hamilton, Mason, Pike, Randolph, and Shelby.

In Kansas, tax rates changed for Downs, Haysville, Leavenworth, Liberal, Little River, McCune and Winfield.

In Minnesota, tax rates changed for Becker County.

In Missouri, tax rates changed for Scotland County, Memphis, and Salisbury.

In New Mexico, tax rates changed for the counties of Catron, Cibola, Mora, and Otero.

In North Dakota, tax rates changed for Michigan, Mino, and Velva.

In Oklahoma, tax rates changed for Tulsa, Tulsa County, Haskell County, Adair County, Broken Bow, Hulbert, Pauls Valley, and Jennings.

In South Dakota, tax rates changed for Fairview and Roscoe.

In Tennessee, tax rates changed for Blount County.

In Texas, tax rates changed for Bartlett and New Berlin.

In Vermont, tax rates changed for St. Albans.

There were 17 states with ZIP code changes effective after June 2014 including Alaska, California, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont and Washington.

Download the full ZIP code change documentation.

Angel Sauer

Angel Sauer, sales tax research team leader

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Jun 032014
 

Zip2Tax is proud to announce that we now have an app for Android devices. It is now available for beta testing for customers interested in getting sales and use tax rates while on the go.

To opt-in to be a beta tester, you must A) have a device compatible with downloads from the Google Play store, and B) sign up for a free trial account if you don’t already have an Online Lookup subscription with Zip2Tax.

There are a couple of steps you must complete in order to download the app while it is still in the beta testing phase:

1) Using your desktop computer’s browser, sign into the Google account you use to access the Play Store.

2) Join the Zip2Tax Android App Beta Test Google+ Community

Zip2Tax Android App Beta Test

You will need to join the Zip2Tax Android App Beta Test Google+ Community before you are able to find the app in the Google Play Store.

3) Go to https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.zip2tax and click the “Become A Tester button”

Become a Tester

Go to https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.zip2tax and click the “Become a Tester” button

4) You will see a message saying “You are now a tester.” A few lines lower on that web page you will see a link saying “Download the Zip2Tax Sales Tax Calculator from the Play Store.” Click on the link.

5) You will now see the Zip2Tax Sales Tax Calculator in the Google Play store. Click “Install” and the app will automatically be downloaded and installed on the device(s) associated with your Google account.

Install from Google Play

Click the Install button.

6) Switch over to your Android device and find the Zip2Tax app’s icon.

Zip2Tax app icon

7) Open the app and click the “Create Account” button. Accept the terms of the End User License Agreement and select whether you would like the app to have access to your current location or not.

Create Account

You must click “Create Account” and submit your information even if you already have an Online Lookup subscription.

8) Type in your information and click “Create Account” again. Your information will be sent to Zip2Tax and we will set you up with a free trial account if you do not already have a current PinPoint level Online Lookup subscription. Your log in credentials will be e-mailed and/or sent to you via text message.

credentials

After you submit your information, we will send you your login credentials via e-mail and/or text message.

9) We hope you enjoy using the Zip2Tax app and we ask for your feedback regarding your experience.

Thank you for growing with us!

 

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May 312014
 

Sales and/or use tax rates in Alabama since May 2014.

In Alabama, tax rates changed for Somerville, Geneva and Trinity.

There were 13 states with ZIP code changes effective after May 2014 including Alaska, California, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.

Download the full ZIP code change documentation.

Angel Sauer

Angel Sauer, sales tax research team leader

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