Extra tax charged for digital converters

July 30, 2008 7:13:44 PM PDT
If you're among the millions who have bought a converter box to make the switch to digital TV, a small refund may be headed your way.

Digital TV converter boxes are selling quickly. More than 100,000 people in the Bay Area alone have already bought the box, and they are taking advantage of $40 off coupons from the federal government.

But there's been one problem: many are being charged too much sales tax. The state says consumers should be taxed only on what they pay, not the price before the discount.

"Sounds like there's been some confusion on the part of the retailers that been selling these digital converter boxes," said State Board of Equalization Vice Chairman Betty Yee.

Everyone who doesn't have a digital tuner and still watches TV using an antenna will need a converter box by February 17th.

That's why Nelson Seto of Milipitas bought two of them from Wal-Mart. He checked his receipt and noticed he was overtaxed a total of $6 for the two boxes he bought.

He tried calling Wal-Mart to get a refund, but was unsuccessful. For him, it's about more than just $6.

"I just believe thousands of consumers are just paying the sales tax for no reason," said Seto.

Wal-Mart says it became aware of the problem on May 21, and has since corrected it. It says it's already sent the extra sales tax money to the state, and is now deciding whether it will take the loss and issue refunds to over taxed consumers.

"I just hope Wal-Mart can resolve this and the state of California can get on top of this as well," said Seto.

"We can work something out with Wal-Mart to the extent the consumer can be identified, yes," said Yee.

Best Buy has also acknowledged it's over taxed its customers. It's since mailed out apology letters to consumers, along with a refund check.

It's also training its cashiers to manually over ride the problem at the cash register, but the process has been slow.

A 7 On Your Side producer was overtaxed at best buy on Tuesday night. When he pointed out the problem, he was told he would have to wait for a refund check in the mail.

"What this issue is raising to the Board of Equalization is we probably should be getting some guidance out to our retailers because it is going to be an issue how they program their registers," said Yee.

One other thing -- if you're sitting at home with a coupon, make sure you check the expiration date. About 83,000 coupons sent to Bay Area households have already expired before they could be redeemed.


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