Steamboat Springs As much as he wants a refund for being charged a city of Steamboat Springs sales tax on his Verizon Wireless bill, Routt County resident Greg Kammerer wants the issue resolved.
Kammerer, who lives south of Steamboat off Colorado Highway 131 and has a U.S. Postal Service box with a city zip code, is among an unknown number of county residents being charged the tax. Since finding out he has been paying a city sales tax he shouldn’t have been charged, Kammerer has been trying to fix it.
He has worked to compile three years’ worth of bills, the maximum the city said it will refund. Kammerer also has been trying to update his physical address with Verizon by calling customer service to have the tax removed from his bill. He called the process frustrating but said Verizon told him Wednesday afternoon that he no longer would be billed the city sales tax.
“We’ll wait for the next bill,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re compiling our bills, filling out the form and taking them to City Hall for that refund,” he said.
Sarah Vale, sales and use tax auditor for the city, said Steamboat had given refunds to 23 people in the past couple of weeks for a total of $2,314.83. She reviews the bills to see whether someone has been charged a city sales tax and verifies his or her county residence.
Vale, who also processes the city’s refunds of use taxes, said she can review the information in a day to get people refunds in a week or two in the mail.
“It’s gone pretty smoothly,” she said.
The city learned about the sales tax issue in July 2007. At that time, city officials sent a letter and called Verizon to get the issue resolved, without success.
“From everything we can tell, it’s not a widespread issue,” Verizon spokesman Bob Kelley said. “It’s a few folks who have a rural address outside city limits.”
Kelley said as long as customers provide their home addresses and a nine-digit zip code, Verizon is able pinpoint where they use the service to bill them correctly. Kelley said many customers provide a home address and mailing address, which is why many Steamboat post office box holders living in the county are assessed the tax.
Rob Douglas, who lives in Tree Haus, said he was having difficulty updating his address information. He said Verizon’s website wouldn’t let him change his home address because it didn’t match the mailing address on file for his payment information through his bank, which pays his cellphone bill automatically.
Eventually, Douglas said his information was updated and Verizon issued him a $103.29 credit for one year of having paid the city sales tax even though the taxes are remitted by the company to Steamboat.
Steamboat isn’t aware of the issue with other wireless providers that provide service in and around Steamboat, including AT&T and Union Wireless. Neither company appears to charge city sales taxes to residents living in the county with Steamboat zip codes.
“Union Wireless utilizes the service address provided by the customer to ascertain any applicable taxes,” Union Wireless spokesman Brian Woody wrote in an email. “If our customers have questions regarding their bills, we would ask that they bring the bill into the local area office and one of the customer care representatives will review their bill with them.”
Hayden Finance Director Lisa Dowling said only one county resident called the town with a question about his Verizon bill. Dowling said she hasn’t heard from the resident since telling him she needed to review copies of his bills and proof of residency.
Because Oak Creek is not a home rule municipality, any requests for refunds would have to go through the state.
And because unincorporated areas of the county such as Clark, Phippsburg and Toponas have their own post offices, they have their own zip codes and shouldn’t have issues with city sales taxes on their wireless bills.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com