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You Ask.  We Investigate.® Secret on Your Receipt

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With the new year the sales tax in California actually went down, but you may still be paying it.

A Rancho Mirage woman wrote KMIR recently saying, "As of today, only 99% of the businesses I have frequented in the Coachella Valley since January first are adhering to this lowered sales tax."

Proposition 30, a tax for schools and public safety, expired December 31st.
So California's state sales tax actually went down a quarter percent on January 1st.

"Amazing, I expect everything in California to go up," remarked John Mann, visiting from Cheney, Washington.

After hearing that some businesses are still charging the old tax, we went looking for receipts.

Vivian Smith and Cindy Maw from Alberta, Canada checked theirs, and sure enough they were charged the old 9%, not 8.75% in Palm Springs.

"Felt ripped off a little, but it was only a couple cents so, not a big deal, but I was thinking of making a larger purchase and that would have affected quite a bit more," said Smith.

"Yeah a little surprised, but it wasn't a huge amount so, it's not going to break the bank," said Maw.

We checked a few more, and most people we talked to in downtown Palm Springs paid the correct amount.

"We are working with small businesses to correct any issues on that, we have heard some issues, and we are working with them to correct those issues," said Jesse Ramirez with the Board of Equalization, or BOE.

It's like the IRS of California collecting taxes which are disbursed to the state, counties, and cities.

"The Board of Equalization puts out a special notice to all our permit holders when there's a change in tax," said Ramirez.

Bobbi Corbin owns a Knead Baking Company in Ojai, and got an email from the BOE.

"You had to open it up and then track down and find your city, and see what it was and compare it to what it was before," said Corbin.

If a business collects more tax than is due and doesn't refund there could be penalties.  
The state suggests if you are overcharged you return to the store with a receipt.

"Go back to the location of the small business, show them the receipt, tell them there was an additional extra charge, and you'd like that money back," said Ramirez.

KMIR's Angela Monroe also found a tax discrepancy on a receipt from a McDonald's in Palm Desert. Instead of a 31 cent tax it was a 32 tax, a difference in a penny, but still the old rate.

So we sat down with the McDonald's Director of Operations for Coachella Valley stores, David Cardin, and crunched the numbers.

Cardin said, "Yeah, I've got the same rate you do, I'd be happy to go back to the restaurant, look at that, I can pull up the individual transactions."

So as you can see it's pretty confusing, and maybe that's why its happening.
Cardin says he found another tax discrepancy on a deal..this one benefitting customers.
"Every time we're selling that combination of items we're having to cover that almost extra two cents per transaction, so it seems there is something that needs to be researched."

Cardin says he'll be looking into it, and in the meantime he says taxes go to the state.
"Everything that's collected gets reported and goes to the state of California, so there's nothing that a business in any case keeps on their own."

You may want to check the tax to make sure there isn't a secret on your receipt.
"If a consumer doesn't get their money back, I would suggest calling into the local BOE office."
"I don't think about it as much, I guess I just assume that things are being done correctly," said 
Amy and Chris Divin, visiting from Houston, Texas.

Voters approved a sales tax hike of one percent in Indio and La Quinta.
It goes into effect in April at 8.75%. 

Bottom line: if every penny counts, count them all.

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