Amazon customer credited $750 after exposing sales tax overcharges, Amazon looking to identify others affected

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A local woman who discovered Amazon had been overcharging her sales tax for years has now received a $750 credit from the company. Other local customers affected could also be receiving refunds soon.

The mix-up happened because she lives in unincorporated St. Johns County; but her shipping city was listed as Jacksonville, so she was charged Duval County’s tax rate, which is higher.

Amazon has now fixed the discrepancy.

When Marianne Hatcher, who lives in the Julington Creek area of St. Johns County, recently discovered the company had been charging her too much sales tax going back more than a decade, she figured she wasn’t the only one.

“I just felt like an obligation to help other people too, who had overpaid,” she said.

Karen Pandolfi, who like Hatcher, lives in the 32259 zip code in St. Johns County, said she learned about the issue from a post Hatcher made on Nextdoor.

“I was kind of dumbfounded,” Pandolfi said. “I thought, how can that be?”

By her calculations, she’s overpaid more than $200 since 2014.

“There’s probably a lot of people out there...thinking, ‘Oh, it’s only probably a couple of dollars,’ but it’s not,” she said. “Over all those years, it adds up to be a lot of money.”

She said she feel confident she’ll get a refund- in part, because of Hatcher’s insistence on accountability from Amazon.

Hatcher said she initially rejected Amazon’s offer of $750 credit, which was higher than she had overpaid in taxes.

“I wouldn’t accept the credit until they said that they were going to be reaching out to other people,” she said.

Tuesday, she learned her persistence paid off. She received an email from Amazon customer service, saying, “Amazon is currently working on identifying other customers who may be impacted and will provide appropriate remediation and will review a path forward regarding remittance of taxes as it is all remitted to the Florida Department of Revenue.”

“It feels great,” Hatcher said. “I’m very happy with how Amazon has handled it.”

Also included was $750 Amazon gift card. She’s hopeful her neighbors will benefit, too.

“I’m also excited about the fact that people may be getting refunds before Christmas.”

A spokesperson from Amazon said they are in the process of identifying customers who may have been affected and will reach out to them about the next steps.

St. Johns County’s tax collector office said they send the sales tax they collect to the Florida Department of Revenue.

When the I-TEAM reached out to the Department of Revenue about Hatcher’s case, a spokesperson said, “The Department uses several different factors to determine county distribution, such as returns filed and county population” and “because of the factors mentioned above, both counties received the same distributions from the Surtax Clearing Trust Fund they would have received, regardless of any surtax charging error by the retailer.”

About the Author:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter