Google Store Inappropriately Charged Sales Tax

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Carrie Livingston

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
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#21
@Sedimentary Rock I totally get where you are coming from and the fact that it's personal not business. Sometimes bureaucracy doesn't and that's why I made the suggestion. Hopefully the exec will be able to get this sorted out and get you a contact in that department so that the next purchase is less painful.
 
Likes: jsn55
Mar 18, 2019
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#22
Good morning,

As an update, I did not hear back from Rob Shilkin so I sent an E-mail today to the secondary contact, Sergey Brin. I sent it to both e-mail addresses listed in your contact (sergey@google.com and sergeyb@google.com).

I received a bounceback from Google with the following error:

** Message not delivered **​
There was a problem delivering your message to sergeyb@google.com. See the technical details below.​

Since I did not receive a bounceback from sergey@google.com, I'm assuming that e-mail reached Mr. Brin.

-- SR
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#24
Neil,

I submitted a report on the website as you requested. Also, since I have not heard back from Mr. Brin I sent an e-mail to the next contact, Eric Schmidt. That e-mail also bounced back as undeliverable, and I have submitted a report as you suggested.

I have sent an e-mail to Larry Page as the last available executive contact. I did not receive a bounceback from that address.

I will wait a week for Mr. Page's response, but I am also preparing complaints to the BBB, the VA attorney general, and the VA taxpayer advocate.

Thank you all again for your support!

-- SR
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#26
Neil,

I understand that the BBB has no actual enforcement mechanism, but it's at least another communication channel so I figure why not give it a shot...? I sent a complaint there yesterday and will know if anything comes of that.

Also, I sent a refund request directly to the Virginia Department of Taxation today and included copies of all of my correspondence with Google as proof of their refusal to provide certification for the refund. If I don't make any headway with them, I will file a complaint with the VA Office of the Attorney General which does have a little more teeth.

Thank you again for all of your support. =)

-- SR
 
Likes: VoR61

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#29
Neil,

I understand that the BBB has no actual enforcement mechanism, but it's at least another communication channel so I figure why not give it a shot...? I sent a complaint there yesterday and will know if anything comes of that.

Also, I sent a refund request directly to the Virginia Department of Taxation today and included copies of all of my correspondence with Google as proof of their refusal to provide certification for the refund. If I don't make any headway with them, I will file a complaint with the VA Office of the Attorney General which does have a little more teeth.

Thank you again for all of your support. =)

-- SR
I agree that you should contact any avenues available. My post was just meant to say that the
BBB can’t enforce anything, they can only ask the company for a response. Filing a complaint will show up on their BBB file but often these don’t even affect the companies rating at the BBB.
 
Likes: VoR61
Apr 23, 2018
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#30
I understand you are pursuing this as a matter of principle. After all, your time is worth a lot more than $18.50 for even one hour. But I'm somewhat surprised you wrote to the three most senior executives at Google's parent company, Alphabet, asking for a small refund on a single purchase.

I suggest you change tack. Drop your claim for a refund. Instead, find the right person in Google's Finance Department (admittedly, that might be very difficult) and notify him/her that Google seems to be charging VA sales tax erroneously, and that this might be exposing the company to state fines and penalties, and perhaps even lawsuits from disgruntled customers. (Am I correct in assuming that all relevant purchases, no matter from what state, are shipped to this same postal address in Virginia? If so, the sales tax amounts could be substantial.) Tell them you are informing them of this problem so they can correct it going forward, and you are leaving it up to them to decide if they have to quantify the extent of past transactions, for notifying either the VA sales tax department and/or past customers. The tone of your message should be to let them know you are doing them a favor.
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#31
I received the attached letter from Virginia yesterday afternoon, but since Google has been ignoring my e-mails I don't know how to present it to Google for resolution. Should I just try the Store support agents again from the bottom or is there another way you think I can get this letter to the right people?

Thank you very much!
 

Attachments

Carrie Livingston

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
1,195
1,210
113
46
St Louis
#32
I did a little Google foo and found this page.

https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/2850368?hl=en

Under tax exempt customers it provide the following...
Books, magazines, movies/TV, music
To request a tax refund, submit this form with the following information:
  • Name
  • State tax exemption form and/or letter
  • A copy of the credit card used for the transaction (with the card number blocked out for security purposes)
  • Order Number
  • Billing address
  • Items for which a refund is being requested
  • Amount of tax refund being requested
I think you could just send the letter from Virginia Department of Revenue as your state tax exemption form.

Here's a direct link to the tax exempt form.

https://support.google.com/store/contact/us_tax_exempt
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#33
Good morning,

I tried resubmitting my tax exempt through the regular support system with the tax exempt confirmation letter and Google has issued the refund. So, that part is at least resolved. I've pressed a bit further on the shipping/refund specialist to see if he can forward my request and support history on to the correct finance department, using some of the language in @GAT 's post.

At this point, I guess there isn't much more I can do.

Thank you to everyone who provided your support and expertise!

-- SR

=========
On Wed, May 1, 2019 at 2:27 PM Google Store Support <store-support@google.com> wrote:
Hello XXX,
My name is XXX and I work with XXX in Google shipping and refunds. I see that you submitted documentation for a tax exempt refund.
We've processed a tax refund for the Pixel C in order GPD.XXXXXXXXXX. However, it may take a few business days for your account to reflect this. The refund amount will be $18.71.

Most refunds are processed in 3 to 5 business days, however processing time can be affected by the card issuer and sometimes takes up to 14 business days. If the funds aren't released within 3 to 5 business days, contact your financial institution for more information on receiving the funds from a processed refund. You can always check to see if a refund has been processed by visiting https://pay.google.com

The tax refund has been processed. Please reply if you have any further questions!

Thanks,

XXX
The Google Support Team​
 
Feb 3, 2019
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#35
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'm super-confused. The 2004 ruling at this link appears to say the Department itself is not liable for the sales tax, but that it doesn't act as a factor or export agent, so the actual purchases do not qualify for the exemption (emphasis added):

"Virginia Code § 58.1-609.10(4) provides an exemption from the sales and use tax for goods delivered to a factor or export agent and destined for foreign export. Such goods are deemed for use and consumption outside Virginia when delivered by the seller to the factor or export agent in the seller's vehicle, by common carrier, by licensed contract or independent trucker hired by the seller or by U.S. mail. The Agency is not itself a factor or export agent and, as such, this exemption does not apply in this instance."


And yet the letter you received from Virginia Taxation's Special Audit team now clearly states shipments to that same facility are exempt.

Did you get any sense of whether there's been some change in the past 15 years, or am I just reading the 2004 ruling incorrectly?

Either way, you should disseminate this info more broadly among your colleagues (Facebook groups? AFSA?), because Google and other merchants owe a lot of other people some sales tax back, too!
 
Mar 18, 2019
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#36
Yeah, this is all really confusing...

What the Department of State mail facility does is basically accept packages on behalf of foreign-stationed diplomats, aggregate lots of packages destined for multiple diplomats into a large bag and then deliver that bag to a freight forwarder (in Europe, the freight forwarder is Lufthansa Air Cargo). As the freight forwarder, Lufthansa acts as the export agent, not the Department itself, and therefore, the Department is not technically an export agent.

The Department's concern when they wrote for clarification is that, since they are the initial VA address but are not an export agent, that delivery to their address would break the chain of custody between the online merchant and the foreign-stationed diplomat and introduce a tax liability. The sentence you underlined acknowledges the Department's concern that it does not act as an export agent itself, but the ruling goes on to clarify that the purchase is between the company and the foreign-based diplomat, and the Department's facility acting as an intermediary between the merchant and the export agent does not introduce a sales tax liability.

Hopefully that made this more clear (and doubly hopefully it didn't make it less clear...) =\

I'm definitely going to share the letter I got with others in hopes that they can help win some of these cases, but this is a bit of a fringe case because most of the major retailers we rely upon for overseas deliveries, such as Amazon, already honor this exemption. Tax Cloud and Avalara also both honor the exemption so any small retailers that rely on those services are also processing it correctly. Google is a pretty glaring outlier on this right now, which is why I was so motivated to try to get it fixed...

-- SR