Thursday, October 20, 2011

Are Deerfield Beach Residents Being Charged the October 1, 2011 Legally Imposed 10% Utility Tax for Utilities Consumed in September???? Updated

While out collecting signatures for the “Kill the Tax” part deux with my comrade in arms against this “wrong tax at the wrong time”,  Ms. Caryl Berner, she  brought to my attention the following:

The utility tax starts October 1, 2011, my FPL utility billing cycle is from September 13, 2011-October 12, 2011 is the utility tax accrued on the kilowattage used prior to the imposition of the tax on October 1, 2011.

Now, this is an interesting question and I, like Caryl Berner and I am sure many other FPL and City of Deerfield Beach utility customers, am very intrigued and would like to know if my first bill after the imposition of the utility tax was calculated including the wattage I used prior to the legal and posted implementation of this tax.

Now, Caryl advised me that when this first occurred to her she immediately contacted FPL to find out if this was the case, but to no avail she could not get a straight answer.  Seeing that FPL would not answer her question directly she contacted Hugh Dunkley, City of Deerfield Beach Finance Director, and he talked around her questions and never gave her an answer.
So, I pose this question to FPL and the City of Deerfield Beach, on behalf of the thousands of utility consumers who have or will receive their October utility bills including charges for this utility tax on energy used before the tax was implemented.

Are the thousands of residents of Deerfield Beach being charged an extra 10% on the kilowatts per hour (kWh) of electricity and gallons of water consumed prior to October 1, 2011?

I advise everyone to review their bills closely this month because after I reviewed ours it became crystal clear that we were.

Let’s look at what the City advised would be the calculation for the billing of the utility tax.
If you visit the City’s website here, you will view the possible calculations per kWh used per billing cycle.

It list that if your monthly usage is say 1,000 kWh you will pay $6.92, 1,400 kWh $9.89, and 1,800 kWh $12.86 per monthly kWh usage.

Knowing this, I looked at my October statement dated October 12, 2011 with a billing cycle of September 13-October 12, 2011 and it indicated that I was billed $10.25 in utility tax for 1501 kWh.

There is no section of the bill which indicates the portion of kWh that were used prior to October 1, 2011 (18 days), which should be exempt from the utility tax since it wasn’t implemented until October 1, 2011.  There was nothing indicating that the utility tax was prorated or will be prorated or if a credit will be issued for the kWh used before the electricity was legally taxed.

I think it is safe to assume that FPL and the City of Deerfield Beach taxed me for the entire billing cycle, even for the kWh used before the tax could be legally implemented and collected. 
So, is the City or FPL going to be issuing the credit and/or the check for this possible discrepancy?

Please note: The City notified the carrier, FPL, on or about June 8, 2011 per Hugh Dunkley, which is the legally required 3 months prior to tax imposition deadline as mandated under FL Statute 166.233.  This statute dictates that any municipality looking to levy a tax notify the Florida Department of Revenue (FLDOR) so they can post the tax rates in a timely fashion to allow the vendor(s) (in this case FPL and the City of Deerfield Beach) ample time so they can upgrade their systems to accommodate the addition of the tax and facilitate the collection.  This was put into statute at the behest of the business community to allow them sufficient time to make the necessary changes to their system per Linda Frazier, Revenue Program Administrator-FLDOR.

So again, I advise everyone to review their utility bills and contact the City of Deerfield Beach and FPL to find out if they were billed incorrectly like Caryl and I.  If you were, you may want to find out when you will be getting a credit and/or a refund (if you already paid it) for this error.

You can contact:
Deerfield Beach City Manager Burgess Hanson, your City Commissioner, or your Mayor at 954-480-4263

FPL Customer Service at 954-797-5000

UPDATE 10-21-2011: I spoke with FPL in regard to this matter and they referred me to contact the City, as there is nothing they can do at this point.  I spoke with Hugh Dunkley this morning and he advised me to contact FPL because they are collecting the tax.  So, my question is who do I talk to when both obligated and responsible parties are pointing the finger at the other.  The FL Department of revenue referred me back to the City, as well.  I guess the statement is true when you point a finger there are three pointing back at you...

**I have spoken with FPL, again, and they advise that no prorate of this first bill which includes energy consumption prior to the effective date of the tax will be completed.  I spoke with the City and they advised the same thing.

The City indicated that they were not interested in prorating the residents who were biled in this manner because FL Statute 166.231(7) gives them authority.  Well, I reviewed that statute and at no place does it give authority to levy a tax on any service consumed and rendered before the effective date of said tax, but again I am no lawyer and apparently Andy Maurodis' legal interpretation of the law can be assumed to always be whatever the City wants it to be.

(7)  The tax authorized hereunder shall be collected by the seller of the taxable item from the purchaser at the time of the payment for such service. The seller shall remit the taxes collected to the municipality in the manner prescribed by ordinance. Except as otherwise provided in ss. 166.233 and 166.234, the seller shall be liable for taxes that are due and not remitted to the municipality. This shall not bar the seller from recovering such taxes from purchasers; however, the universities in the State University System shall not be deemed a seller of any item otherwise taxable hereunder when such item is provided to university residences incidental to the provision of educational services.
Does this look like it indicates in anyway that I should be taxed on services rendered, received, consumed, and used before the effective date of the imposed tax, just because I didn`t pay for them before the tax became effective.  No it doesn`t, but the City wants us to believe that.  I explained to Hugh Dunkley that that is the most retarded interpretation that Andy has had so far.  That is like the government on Wednesday 10-26-2011 making wearing sandals on Tuesdays illegal and then arresting me Thursday 10-27-2011 because I wore sandals Tuesday 10-25-2011.  

So, I found this tax info from New Jersey, which is almost comparable to what has happened here in this case.

Recently passed legislation increases the New Jersey sales and use tax rate from 6% to 7%. The rate change affects all retail sales of taxable merchandise or services that take place on and after July 15, 2006.

You must remit 7% sales and use tax on all taxable sales of property and services that occur on and after July 15, 2006.

If you have any taxable sale transactions that began before July 15, 2006, and are completed on or after July 15, 2006, the following rules apply:

Sales Made Before July 15, 2006; Delivery On And After July 15, 2006 -
If the property was sold and delivered or services were rendered before July 15, 2006, the tax rate is 6%. If the property or services were sold but the property was not delivered or the services were not rendered until on or after July 15, 2006, or after, you must charge tax at the rate of 7%. This rule applies whether or not payment has been made in whole or in part prior to delivery.

So it looks like we will have to file complaints against FPL and the City of Deerfield Beach so that this tax code can be reviewed and clarified for all interested parties.  I am sure there has to be some Administrative ruling that has been done on this...I`m looking...i`m looking.  This is not fair to the residents to be billed for services delivered and used before the effective date of the tax, but still be taxed because you weren`t billed for them until after the effective date.  Why does NJ have this concept right and Florida does not???

Also, I remind all Deerfield Beach residents and registered voters of Deerfield Beach that the "Kill the Tax" petition will be available to sign ore-sign at the Cove Bagel & Deli in the Cove Shopping Center Tuesday through Sunday 9am-3pm or Shelby's Kitchen at 3952 W. Hillsboro Blvd. Saturdays and Sundays 9am-1pm  (rain or shine).  Bring your voters registration card because we need the precinct number, if you don't have handy still stop by and sign the petition.  

***Updated from the City of Deerfield Beach website posted 10-22-2011 11:49AM

Public Service Tax Billing UpdateManagement has become aware of a billing cycle issue regarding the public service tax (utility tax). We are in the process of working to address the situation, and will provide updates on this website, and through other modes of communication as they become available. Thank you for your patience as we work to resolve this issue. 

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