Google Store Inappropriately Charged Sales Tax

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Mar 18, 2019
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#1
Good Morning,

In 2016 I purchased a tablet from the Google Store while I was stationed overseas on a US Department of State (DoS) assignment. The DoS operates a mail forwarding facility in Dulles, VA that forwards mail destined for its smaller missions overseas. In accordance with VA tax code, "Delivery of goods destined for foreign export to a factor or export agent shall be deemed to be delivery of goods for use or consumption outside of the Commonwealth." (§ 58.1-609.10). http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title58.1/chapter6/section58.1-609.10/

The VA Tax Commissioner has ruled that the DoS mail forwarding facility qualifies for the VA tax exemption, as confirmed in Ruling of the Tax Commissioner 04-11. http://www.tax.virginia.gov/laws-rules-decisions/rulings-tax-commissioner/04-11

I tried for 5 months in 2016 to resolve the issue with the Google Store, unsuccessfully. The Google Store does not account for this sales tax exemption that is clearly articulated in the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I am attempting to recover the sales taxes that are owed to me. After coming across your site earlier this year, I feel like you may be able to assist me in reopening this issue with Google.

Thank you for your assistance!
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#2
I am considering sending this e-mail to Rob Shilkin, who is listed as the primary executive contact for Google on your site (although the listing is several years old):

Good morning Sir,

In July of 2016 I purchased a Google Pixel C tablet from the Google Store (order #GPD.XXXXXXXXXXX). At the time, I was a US diplomat stationed overseas. My order was sent to me through the US Department of State mail forwarding facility located in Dulles, VA. The Google Store charged sales tax on the order in the amount of $18.71.

Google erroneously charged sales tax on the order, as VA sales tax does not apply on orders sent to the Dulles VA mail forwarding facility in accordance with VA tax code § 58.1-609.10(4), confirmed by Ruling of the Tax Commissioner 04-11. Orders shipped to the Department of State mail forwarding facility are not subject to VA sales tax.

Over the course of 5 months in 2016 I attempted to resolve this issue through the Google Store Support Team, but was unsuccessful in obtaining the refund due to me.

I am respectfully requesting your assistance in obtaining a refund for the $18.71 that was erroneously charged to my order. Additionally, I respectfully request your assistance in working with the Google Store team to ensure future purchases destined for US diplomatic posts overseas are exempted from sales taxes in accordance with VA state law.

I greatly appreciate your assistance in resolving this matter! I can provide copies of e-mails between the Google Store Support Team and myself, including the referenced VA tax code and Ruling of the Tax Commissioner documents if requested.

Thank you very much!
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#3
I understand this request is a couple years old now. I had given up on the frustration of obtaining the refund for the sales tax, especially given the small amount, but the principal of this still bothers me. If there is any chance I can still resolve this even after a couple years, I would like to give it a try.
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#6
Thank you both for your replies!

Carrie, do you think I should proactively mention the upcoming three years or just be aware they may mention it?

Christina, I did contact the VA department of taxation and they provided the forms. The problem is that in order to claim the tax back I still need Google to provide a verification that the sale took place, which I think will be even harder than asking them to simply refund the sales tax due. I could include a sentence that I am willing to claim the refund directly from VA if Google is willing to fill out the required documentation, but I worry that might confuse my initial e-mail request...
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#7
Ugh sorry OP I had not looked at the forms— they are a lot of work — I should have expected that. Yes those forms will likely cause more confusion.

What were the past responses from the google store.
 
Likes: VoR61

Carrie Livingston

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Jan 6, 2015
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#8
@Sedimentary Rock send the email. I was at work when I first posted and thought immediately of the three year statute of limitations because I work as a sales tax auditor. I don't think you are asking for too much. I would imagine they will turn it over to their tax department to handle and it shouldn't be a problem. Most major companies either have their own internal SALT (sales and local tax) department or they outsource it.

There is likely a refund to purchaser option in Virginia but if it's anything like in Missouri, it's going to be a pain.

Don't attach anything to the email as that might cause it to get bounced. If it doesn't go through, please let us know here. That will let the research group know contacts might need to be updated.

Good luck!
 
Likes: VoR61
Mar 18, 2019
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#10
Thank you again for the replies! I went ahead and sent my e-mail to Mr. Shilkin. I will let you know if I hear back.

Christina: The Google Store Support Team basically told me that they cannot refund sales tax without a qualified Tax Exempt ID Number. I was never really able to get them to understand that all shipments to that address (really the entire 20189 ZIP code) are non-taxable by law due to their final destination rather than based on my status as a tax exempt entity or purpose. Basically they refused to budge on the Tax ID issue, despite the fact that § 58.1-609.10(4) does not require an exemption ID to qualify.
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#11
Neil: At this time it is specifically the $18.71 I am asking for in my e-mail to Mr. Shilkin. This is really less about the money from this one specific transaction and more about Google looking into and correcting the systemic problem, where they are inappropriately charging sales taxes to every diplomat at every small overseas post across the world.

Since I am likely the spend the better part of the next 10-20 years of my life at overseas postings like this, I would like to see Google correct the systemic flaw so that I can continue to purchase Google products and services without being charged sales taxes that I do not owe.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#12
Just a thought here. Since packages are being delivered to the US Department of State mail forwarding facility located in Dulles, VA, can they pursue this? The DoS has far more clout than you do, and may be able to apply the proverbial "crowbar" to them . . .
 
Likes: Neil Maley

Carrie Livingston

Moderator
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Jan 6, 2015
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#13
Did you specifically mention an export exemption? I think with the Store team you probably needed to get connected to someone behind the scenes because I am sure they have a tax department that deals with this. Obviously front line employees wouldn't know about it.

I once audited a major retailer and they stated that even though they would accept an exemption certificate for items they wouldn't report the sales to the state as exempt because it wasn't worth the time to make sure an 18 employee got the certificate and then sent it to home office.
 
Likes: VoR61
Mar 18, 2019
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#14
@Carrie Livingston I did both link to and attach PDF versions of the specific exemption paragraph and Tax Commissioner ruling. I did not every specifically say "export exemption." I asked to be connected to someone who deals specifically with tax issues but the front-line CSR supervisor refused to allow me to do so directly. The supervisor did say that he brought the issue to his "specialists" twice and both times they said they could not refund the tax without an exemption ID.

I dug through the e-mail trail to see if I could see anywhere that the supervisor used any other words to describe the specialists, either different nouns or qualifying adjectives, but I don't see anywhere he uses any words other than "specialists." I do see that the first CSR (non-supervisory) I was dealing with did once say he was escalating my issue to the "product specialists" but I'm not sure if those are the same specialists that the supervisor was dealing with...
 

Carrie Livingston

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Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
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#15
They are looking for the tax id for the Department of State. They need a number to assign the exemption to in case they get audited. Some states are hardcore about exemptions and have to see the actual exemption. I'm sure the Department of State has a tax id. But writing to the executives may be able to get something to happen. If your email bounces back, try and send it again without attachments.
 
Likes: VoR61
Sep 19, 2015
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#16
This sounds like a difficult and very particular sales tax issue.

OP do many overseas state department employees have this problem with other merchants?
 

Carrie Livingston

Moderator
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Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
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#17
I think it's just that you need to get in the back door. Unless you are a business purchasing from them. The business would already have the exemption on file as it would have been set up when the account was set up.
 
Likes: jsmithw
Mar 18, 2019
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#18
@Carrie Livingston Thank you for all of your advice! It's great to have someone with your experience helping me see through the other lens. =)

The problem here is that I am making a personal purchase for personal consumption. Regardless, I'm not asking for the exemption because I work for the State Department. I'm asking for the exemption because the product was shipped to a freight forwarder who forwarded the product overseas. There was no consumption of the product in VA, which is the reason the sales tax does not apply.
 
Likes: VoR61
Mar 18, 2019
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#19
@Christina H I don't think it's a huge issue, because Amazon, Best Buy, TaxCloud, and Avalara all recognize 20189 as a 0% sales tax shipping address. It would be a HUGE issue if Amazon didn't recognize the exemption, because we all use Amazon for pretty much our entire ability to continue to purchase US brand products while we're overseas.
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#20
I guess I should say that, yes, the issue does pop up from time to time with different merchants. It's pretty much a craps shoot whether or not the company will actually review the case and refund the sales taxes...