Sales tax shift is surprise to some sellers

State no longer has money to mail notices to merchants; C-Tran rate went up April 1



Vancouver florist Maria Adler is among the Clark County merchants who would have liked a mailed reminder to charge a higher sales tax on purchases in Clark County starting April 1.

“I missed a day,” said Adler, co-owner of Luepke Florist. It’s a mistake that will come out of her pocket, costing the amount of the tax increase, which is two-tenths of a penny on every dollar.

“I thought there would be a big flyer,” she said.

The rate hike reflects a November ballot measure for C-Tran in which voters adopted Proposition 1, bumping C-Tran’s slice of the local sales tax to 0.7 percent, up from 0.5 percent to support existing bus service and C-Van service.

“If it’s within the area served by C-Tran, the total (sales tax) rate is 8.4 cents on the dollar,” up from 8.2 cents, said Mike Gowrylow, communications director for the Washington State Department of Revenue.

The department collects sales tax from about 55,000 retailers in the state, Gowrylow said.

State budget cuts eliminated snail-mail notifications about rate changes, he said, but electronic notices were emailed to affected shopkeepers in February. Another electronic notice went out on March 1 to subscribers of the state’s electronic listserv.

Before budget cuts, the revenue department used to mail quarterly announcements that included notifications of any changes in the tax rate.

“The printing and postage were all things we couldn’t afford to do any more.” Gowrylow said.

Other local merchants said they received plenty of forewarning by email that it was time to tack on another 0.2 percent to each sale.

“As far as I know, we haven’t had any issues. We haven’t even had any customers comment on it,” said Karenza Corder, store manager of All Natural Pet Supply, a Salmon Creek-area store at 10501 N.E. Highway 99.

Corder has noticed that store merchandise that used to ring up for a total of $12.97 with tax, now rings for three cents higher at $13.

“I mean, it really hasn’t made any difference,” she said.

But a heads-up would have been nice, said Mary Sisson, co-owner of Vancouver toy store Kazoodles, who later found out that the Department of Revenue notified her bookkeeper, but not the store, about the increase.

“This is the first tax increase since we opened our store, so I thought some kind of official information would come, giving the date and the amount,” she said.

Gowrylow said the last increase was in 2007 when the county rate increased one-tenth of one percent for mental health.

Clark County’s sales tax rate is 7.7 cents on the dollar in areas outside of the region served by C-Tran.