Local Businessman Complains About Overcharged Utilities

By: Andy Alcock
By: Andy Alcock

It's a pretty quiet place.

But right now, the Tallahassee RV Park is at the center of a controversy.

"As a small business person, I get a city of Tallahassee utility bill. I assume it's accurate," said RV park owner Erwin Jackson.

But Jackson says an Atlanta consulting firm told him he was being overcharged.

After Jackson hired the firm, he was ultimately rebated roughly $5600 in sales tax exemptions.

"The city has had this for years," said Jackson. "They know what the statutes are and they know the exemptions exist," he said. "They've just refused to notify the public about it." Jackson said.

"There actually had been some historical exemptions there and circumstances have changed where I think its enabled them to take more exemptions," said Tallahassee Utility Business & Customer Service Director Reese Goad.

Goad says, unlike the RV park, most businesses don't qualify for the sales tax exemptions.

He also says it's the responsibility of the individual business owners to find and qualify for them.

"The city's not in a position to know whether customers would be exempt," said Goad.

"They always claim this is our utility company," said Jackson. "And I think our local utility company should work with local businesses," he said.

And Jackson believes his RV Park is far from alone when it comes to being overcharged for utilities.

He bought the park in 2002.

But under Florida Revenue Department rules, he's only eligible for up to three years of rebates.

Jackson believes he and other business owners should get all of their overpayments returned.

"Now my goal is to let every business person in town know about the unauthorized sales tax being collected from us," he said.

"Some of these exemptions are pretty narrow and really unique to the business," said Goad. "We want to make sure we find the appropriate forums and avenues to share that information with our customers," he said.

Goad says most owners sign up for the sales tax exemptions when they first go into business.

He says a review of city records found a strong cross-section of customers are taking advantage of them.

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