State & Local Tax Blog

Tax Department Pays $38,569 for a 12 Pack of Toilet Paper

You’ve seen the headline that goes something like this: “Federal Government Pays $735 for a Hammer”. Well, here’s a case where a retailer probably had to spend many thousands dealing with a customer who filed what she called a “message lawsuit”. The question you have to ask yourself is “what’s the message?”

You try to get the tax rates right on the right items taking into account crazy tax laws all over the nation, and you get it wrong a 12-pack of toilet paper and you get sued over that? Give me a break. We must have bigger problems to fight than this.

Check out this article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

And I quote: “A Murrayville homemaker has won another legal battle against a retail giant.
Mary Bach, 63, sued Kmart after its store on Mall Boulevard in Monroeville charged her 7 percent sales tax on two 12-pack rolls of Angel Soft toilet paper — a non-taxable item, according to the state Department of Revenue. On Thursday, Monroeville District Judge Herbst ruled in Bach’s favor, finding Kmart twice levied the tax improperly. She gets $100, plus court costs.
Company spokeswoman Kim Freely said the tax was charged in error that the problem has been fixed. The Tribune-Review bought the same toilet paper yesterday tax-free.

“Bach, a self-proclaimed consumer advocate, has successfully sued other retailers including Wal-Mart and Radio Shack for incorrectly taxing items. Bach calls them “message lawsuits.”

“I want to be in a position to educate consumers,” Bach said. “The only thing retailers understand is a message lawsuit.”

What’s the message?

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