Texas Politics

Refunds available for Texans wrongly charged tax on emergency supplies

Batteries — single or multi-pack — are on the list of items Texans may buy tax free between April 23-25. This applies to AAA, AA, C, D, 6-volt or 9-volt batteries, as long as the cost is less than $75. The only exceptions: batteries for vehicles, boats and other motorized vehicles are not on the list and are not tax-free.
Batteries — single or multi-pack — are on the list of items Texans may buy tax free between April 23-25. This applies to AAA, AA, C, D, 6-volt or 9-volt batteries, as long as the cost is less than $75. The only exceptions: batteries for vehicles, boats and other motorized vehicles are not on the list and are not tax-free. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Not everyone knew about Texas’ first emergency preparation supplies sales tax holiday this past weekend.

Reports have trickled into the Texas comptroller’s office about some Texans being wrongly charged sales tax on items that should have been tax-free during Texas’ new Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday.

“There are a few little growing pains with this,” said Chris Bryan, a spokesman for the comptroller’s office. “There were a couple of reports of folks getting charged sales tax in error.”

But anyone who was wrongly charged may ask the state for a refund.

This is all part of a new law that state lawmakers last year approved, giving Texans a tax break for stocking up on items needed for any emergency — particularly for those found in severe weather weather situations that frequently crop up in Texas.

But not all retail clerks knew about the sales tax holiday that ran through midnight Monday.

The holiday means shoppers don’t, for one weekend of the year, pay sales tax on items such as first-aid kits, batteries, fuel containers, axes, nonelectric can openers, hand-cranked flashlights, portable self-powered radios, fire extinguishers, tarps and more.

Harry Kelly of Granbury was one of countless Texans who went out to buy flashlight batteries over the weekend.

After being told by clerks at his local Wal-Mart that they didn’t know about the holiday, he put the batteries back and left the store. An employee who researched the issue chased after him to let him know he was correct and that his batteries should be tax-free.

“She did some digging around and found out,” Kelly said. “I ended up buying the batteries.”

Getting a refund

Any shoppers who ran into the same problem as Kelly, but ended up paying taxes, can get their tax money back, Bryan said.

For battery sales fee refunds, for instance, consumers must have a signed letter explaining the reason for the refund claim, the amount of refund requested, the date when the tax was wrongly paid, a copy of the receipt and more.

These refund requests may be sent to Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, 111 E. 17th St., Austin, Texas, 78774-0100. For more information call 800-531-5441, ext. 34545.

Early estimates have shown that Texas shoppers might save about $1.4 million in taxes from buying emergency preparation supplies this weekend. Actual numbers of the tax-dollar savings may not be available until mid-May, Bryan said.

“Anecdotally, the number of complaints in this have been very few and far between,” Bryan said. “For the most part, we found that retailers have been happily participating.”

The goal of this new law, authored by state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is to make sure Texans stock up on needed items so they are prepared during storm seasons.

“I applaud the Legislature for approving this vital tax relief for Texas families,” Gov. Greg Abbott has said, in urging Texans to take advantage of the holiday “so they can be prepared for any and all severe weather.”

State officials encourage any Texan who forgot about the sales tax holiday to go ahead and stock up on supplies needed — from batteries to first-aid kits to axes — so they will be prepared for any emergency.

“When the floodwaters are coming through or tornado sirens are going off, there’s no time to rush to the store to make sure you have batteries for the flashlight,” Bryan said.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

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