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Double-check before paying sales tax

This is not a request for action on our behalf, but we hope it will save others from having to request your assistance.

We agreed to the terms of a roof replacement contract. Then, after my husband left on an errand, the salesman suddenly remembered he had forgotten to add state sales tax. The next day I called the Department of Revenue and was informed we should not be paying sales tax.

When I told the salesman, he said in the spirit of generosity no sales tax would be charged on the materials used. I informed him that charging us sales tax was illegal unless there was a written agreement for us to be given the excess material.

At that point he agreed to correct his mistake.

We reported this to the Better Business Bureau and Department of Revenue but I also would like to let your readers know so they can be saved an unnecessary expense.

M.G.

Response: Our readers would be wise to call the Department of Revenue any time they have a question about sales tax on any product or service _ especially on home remodeling or repair work.

Briefly, sales tax is charged on the sales price of tangible property (clothes, cars, furniture). That price includes installation, shipping or other service charges. Sales tax is not charged on real estate (including products that become part of your real estate such as shingles, windows, etc.). It also is not charged on pure services (consulting, accounting, etc.).

But sales tax laws are complicated and this little explanation is much too simplified to cover all situations. Sales tax IS charged on service when even a small amount of tangible product is used (wheel alignment requiring grease, for example).

A department spokesman tells us that whether you pay sales tax on home repairs depends on how the contract is written. If a roofer gives you a lump-sum contract or fixed fee (says he will repair your roof for $2,500 including labor and materials), then he pays the sales tax on the shingles because they are tangible property when he buys them. They do not become real estate until they are nailed to your roof.

Should that roofer itemize your bill and separate the cost of the shingles, roofing nails and tar from his labor charges, then he is, in effect, selling the materials to you as tangible products before they become part of your real estate. In that case, he charges sales tax.

Like we said _ sales tax law is complicated. Before hiring a roofer (or air-conditioner repair service or carpenter, etc.), call the Florida Department of Revenue, (800) 226-3411. Find out if the company is registered and has a sales tax number and determine whether your situation calls for sales tax.

As for you, if your roofing contract has sales tax written on it and then scratched off, send a copy of it to the revenue people and tell them your story. They might be able to charge your roofer with tax fraud in which case he could face some serious criminal penalties.

"Obiit Sine Prole' abbreviated OSP

I know that OSP means "died without issue" _ in other words, no heirs. But what do those letters really stand for?

None of my dictionaries have that abbreviation.

L.B.

Response: OSP means Obiit Sine Prole in Latin.

"Beach parking here' signs needed

On Easter Sunday my family, who had arrived here the day before from the North, set out for an afternoon at Madeira Beach Park. Armed with several dollars worth of quarters to feed the meters, they waited for about half an hour without finding a parking space.

The kids were fussing and anxious to get to the water so they pulled into the nearly empty Winn-Dixie parking lot across the street and headed for the park.

Instantly the trap was sprung. A towing company hauled away their car and charged them $82 to get it back _ all very legitimate since there is a small sign posted in this large lot.

When they complained the next day at Madeira Beach City Hall, they were told they should have parked at City Hall. Great idea, but where are the signs telling out-of-town tourists that?

Mrs. Jess Young

Response: Madeira Beach Mayor Marvin Frederich is sorry about your family's experience. He says the city is not involved with regulating private parking and has nothing to do with towing contracts. He suggests tourists watch for signs posted on private property and search other beach locations for parking spaces. He does not offer to post signs about City Hall parking spaces but he does point out that cars also get towed in northern cities.

If you have a question for Action, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

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