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Some Bluffton-area restaurants appear to still be charging customers the 1 percent Beaufort County sales tax that expired last September.
An Okatie resident said he's been charged a 9-percent sales tax at four Bluffton restaurants within the past few weeks. That's 1 percentage point higher than the 8 percent he should have paid (6 percent state sales tax plus the 2 percent Bluffton hospitality-tax).
The resident, who asked not to be identified, supplied a receipt from one of the restaurants that showed a 9 percent sales tax. The restaurants are not being named because it's not clear whether they were the only businesses charging too much.
County officials say they have not received complaints about sales-tax charges since early October, shortly after the sales tax expired.
Samantha Cheeks, spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Revenue, said it's up to consumers to report businesses they believe are overcharging to a local revenue department office.
"(A)n auditor handling this request would require the name and address of the retailer, and sometimes, a copy of the taxpayer's receipt to further inspect the matter," she said in an email.
The Charleston revenue office can be reached by calling 843-852-3600.
If a taxpayer is overcharged, Cheeks added, the retailer -- not the state -- is responsible for reimbursing the customer.
Under state law, businesses that overcharge sales taxes can face sanctions. But "if the retailer makes a 'good faith effort' in resolution, penalties may not apply," Cheeks said.
County voters approved the 1 percent tax in 2006 to raise money for road construction and improvements. The revenue generated by the tax reached its $152 million goal last fall and the tax was lifted Sept. 30, 2012.
Projects paid for with the money include the ongoing U.S. 278 widening, construction of new Bluffton Parkway segments and the S.C. 170 widening project from S.C. 46 to U.S. 278 that is about to begin. It also helped pay for the U.S 17 widening to the Colleton County line and repaving portions of William Hilton Parkway on Hilton Head Island.
The county sent notices to many local businesses and worked with local chambers of commerce last fall to alert them to the expiring tax. Officials believe most businesses got the message and reprogramed their cash registers.