Sales tax shakedown

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by JESSE JONES / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on March 3, 2010 at 5:24 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 3 at 5:26 PM

Shirley Zimbleman of Marysville bought a walk-in tub in 2008 and now she says she's getting soaked by the company who sold it to her.

"Two years after I bought it, they try to say I have to pay sales tax on the thing," she said.

That's right, she was never charged sales tax on the $6500 tub. The company, Independent Living USA out of Florida, sent Shirley a letter demanding she pay $495 to cover their loss. If not, the company will turn her in to the Department of Revenue where she could face "severe penalties" or an "issuance of a warrant" for not paying sales tax.

Jesse Jones: "This letter is really a threat."

Shirley Zimbleman: "Yeah, it's a threat."

So what does the state say about this?

"Frankly, I was shocked to see this letter represented things the way they did," said Mike Gowrylow with the Department of Revenue.

He says customers are under no obligation to pay a tax bill a company owes.

"It's clearly over the top, cut-and-paste scare tactics that really surprised us and it's not right at all," he said.

Mike says the cut-and-paste job comes from a letter the state sends to the companies who haven't paid their sales tax. Independent Living USA told us they thought the sales tax was exempt if a customer had a prescription for a walk-in tub. They were wrong. So the state is collecting the tax from the company. The company is trying to collect it from the customers.

"They're using Department of Revenue tax laws that don't apply to customers," Gowrylow said. "They apply to the businesses that deal with customers. All that is just scare tactics."

Robert Morrow Chief Operations Officer with Independent Living USA did respond to us saying, "If customers do not pay, we have continued to send letters and ask for the money again."

Based on what the state says, Shirley's decision is to tell the company they're all wet.

Jesse Jones: "My news to you is, you don't have to pay."

Shirley Zimbleman: "Fantastic, things have been really tight."

A spokesman with the Department of Revenue says it never advised the company to write anything close to the information found in letter sent to Shirley. They are asking the company to stop sending out these letters. If you ever get a demand like this, call the Department of Revenue before paying a cent.

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