Outlets at Tejon experiencing sales tax confusion

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Some stores in the newly opened Outlets at Tejon are collecting too much sales tax.

The 320,000-square-foot center, featuring more than 70 retailers and restaurants, is just south of Bakersfield near the junction of Interstate 5 and Highway 99. That's in an unincorporated county area, where the sales tax rate is 7.5 percent.

The problem: Some of the computer systems for the national retailers picked up the center's Arvin zip code, and those stores are collecting the Arvin city sales tax rate of 8.5 percent.

Pine Mt. Club resident Carol Trudeau said she shopped there on Tuesday and found different sales tax charged.

She went to Dewar's and Lids hat store and was charged 7.5 percent sales tax. But, at both Kitchen Collection and the Dressbarn, she noticed sales tax was 8.5 percent.

"I said, 'What? When I shop in Bakersfield it's 7.5 percent,'" Trudeau told Eyewitness News.

She wanted to know why.

Barry Zoeller, vice president of corporate communications and marketing for the Tejon Ranch Co., said the majority of stores are collecting the correct amount of sales tax. The center is working with the other retailers to get proper documentation submitted as fast as possible to make the corrections.

"Prior to opening, we informed all the stores in the center that the sales tax was 7.5 percent, because we're located in unincorporated Kern County," Zoeller explained. "Now, the confusion arises when we have an Arvin Zip code."

He said the center has a postal address that shows Arvin, and some companies' computer systems picked up that data.

Zoeller estimated fewer than 10 of the nearly 70 stores in the Outlets may be charging the incorrect sales tax rate.

Zoeller said anyone who paid too much sales tax can take their receipts to the stores after corrections are made for a refund.

"Once everything gets taken care of, we encourage any customers who were charged the 8.5 percent to go back to that store and indicate they collected more tax than they should have," Zoeller said. "And, then they can make it right."