Online purchase

I was incorrectly charged sales tax for an online purchase. How can I get a refund?

Q. I live in New Jersey and an online merchant recently charged me sales tax for tax-exempt items like clothing. I contacted the merchant for a refund and was basically told that the vendor he uses requires him to charge the tax. They are not interested in providing me with a refund even though I sent them the guidelines that say otherwise. Is there a formal process I can follow to ensure I receive a refund?

– Buyer

A. We have heard this story before.

With online shopping and sales tax being determined by state law, it’s all too common.

Technically, it’s up to the company to do the right thing, said Kenneth Bagner, a chartered accountant at Sobel and Co. in Livingston.

There is a process, he says, but it’s not simple.

Refund requests sales and use tax must include documentation of all transactions, he said.

Here is what is required:

the refund request, Form A-3730, must be accompanied by documentation, such as invoices, receipts, proof of tax payment and exemption certificates, the state says.

“These documents must be provided in an appropriate format to determine the accuracy of the reasons for the refund and the amount of the refund or credit,” he said. “Acceptable formats include photocopies or, instead of hard copies, pictorial documents.”

Here’s a bite.

“All sales/purchase documentation must clearly identify seller, buyer, invoice number, invoice date, transaction description, invoice amount exclusive of tax and amount of sales tax charged for the transaction,” he says. “For transactions exempt from sales tax through the issuance of an exemption certificate, documentation relevant to all transactions with the issuer of the exemption certificate must clearly identify the purchaser.”

Cash receipts, register tapes or other receipts that do not identify the buyer are not acceptable, he said. Proof of sales tax remitted to sellers is required and the state will accept copies of voided checks, he said.

If the payment was made electronically, you can send copies of bank statements with details of all transactions that make up the electronic payment.

“It is best to push the business for a refund first, because that process seems painful,” Bagner said.

Send your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboos column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. To find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Register for NJMoneyHelp.comit is weekly e-newsletter.