Why Am I Paying an Extra Penny for My Diet Coke?

September 1, 2015

Citizen Scoops

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IT’S ONLY PENNIES, RIGHT?
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PENNIES

Last week, a Charleston resident asked why he was being charged an extra tax for raisin walnut bread that he wasn’t charged for another kind of bread. It’s still a good question. That brought forth a number of stories about similarly mysterious sales tax additions. Particularly interesting was the following story, about how one company is charging an extra penny on an item that goes tax-free everywhere else.

Let us know what you think, and if you have an answer.

I live in the town of Pelion, South Carolina. There is a Corner Pantry store here that’s owned by Tucker Oil in Columbia. Tucker Oil operates five Corner Pantry stores in Lexington County.

This may seem trivial, but upon further reflection, you may see the overall effect of this minor issue as it takes possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the local economy. I have visited the same store on a monthly basis since then and have come across the same result. This past weekend I made the same purchase and was charged $1, and the listed price was 99 cents.

In February 2015, I stopped at the Corner Pantry in Pelion to purchase a one-liter Diet Coke. The cost advertised was $1.19. When I paid, I was charged $1.20. An additional 1-cent tax was placed on the item. I asked why I was being charged the tax on an unprepared food item and received a look of incomprehension. I then went to the Family Dollar store, two blocks away and made the identical purchase. The advertised price was 99 cents, and I paid 99 cents for the item.

I inquired as to why there was no tax, and the clerk responded that it’s an unprepared food item and not subject to any taxes. Which is what I thought, too.

I then contacted the mayor of Pelion to figure out if the town had placed a tax on the item, as is within its purview, should the taxpayers approve it. I was told that this is not the case, however.

After that, I contacted my state representative, Kit Spires, and voiced my concern that money is being removed from the local economy at a penny per transaction. He sounded concerned, but after several further emails and phone calls I’ve heard nothing.

Then I contacted Katrina Shealy, my state senator, voicing a concern over money being removed at a rate that was invisible to the population, and she placed me in contact with Mr. Clelan at the state Department of Revenue. I presented him the evidence of a receipt showing the 1 percent tax about a month ago. I’ve have had no further contact; my phone calls to him go unanswered; and there have been no further communications from the Department of Revenue.

I also contacted Tucker Oil Company and informed them of the issue several months ago before going to others, but to no avail.

My wife and I have a standing Sunday date, and on one Sunday, we visited every Corner Pantry in Lexington County operated by Tucker Oil Company. I made the same purchase, one 1-liter Diet Coke. Each time, we were charged the 1 percent tax.

Now being slightly smarter than the average bear, if one were to extrapolate these purchases into just say 200 similar purchases per day at five stores, that is $2 per store per day times five equals $10, times a normal month being 30 days, equals $300 per month or $3,600 per year.

I think this is a conservative estimate and believe the actual amount to be far greater. For one, I do not know how long this “1 percent tax” has been levied by Tucker Oil.

Where is this money going? Why is only one company (that I can find) charging an extra penny in tax? Are taxpayers being fleeced, one penny at a time? Can someone – other than public officials, who don’t seem interested – please explain what’s going on here?

—Stanley Oswald