Overtaxed: Numbers don’t add up for diners

The July 1 increase in the meals tax caused some miscalculations in diners' tabs.
staff photo The July 1 increase in the meals tax caused some miscalculations in diners’ tabs. staff photo

Charlottesville raised its meals tax to 6 percent July 1, which, on top of the 5.3 percent state sales tax, adds more than 11 percent to your dinner tab. But a computer glitch at one local restaurant meant some customers were paying more than 16 percent.

Lorena Perez, a designer at C-VILLE Weekly, had lunch with friends at Wild Wolf Brewing Company on Second Street SE on July 4. She calculated that the $7.66 tax charged on her $46 bill was 16.65 percent. Her companions also had more than 16 percent added to their bill—about $2 more than what the tax should be.

The tax on this bill should be $5.20, not $7.66.

Perez says, “We told the manager, who called the general manager, who said over the phone that their system had the accurate percentage in, and that it was the correct tax. We asked the manager in the restaurant to do the math, and although he agreed that the amount was more than what the percentage should be, he said, ‘I can’t do anything about it.’”

Commissioner of Revenue Todd Divers confirms that the meals tax is 6 percent and the state tax is 5.3 percent for a total of 11.3 percent on restaurant tabs in the city. “It could be an honest mistake if the wrong number was put in at the point of sale,” he says.

If it’s an ongoing problem, says Divers, “it could escalate to the police.” According to city code, “the wrongful and fraudulent use of such collections” constitutes embezzlement, he says.

A week later on July 11, C-VILLE dined at Wild Wolf, which opened its Charlottesville location in May, to see if the excess tax had been fixed. It had not been.

On a bill of $34, the tax was $5.64, almost 17 percent—a $1.80 overcharge. The manager on duty said she’d have the marketing manager call back. C-VILLE also left a message for Troy Berge, the general manager.

It was July 17 before C-VILLE caught up with Berge, who said he’d look into it. “We don’t want to be overcharging.”

He discovered there was a problem. “After July 1, the system reprogrammed. It was only a few days. We didn’t realize it.”

Perez says the manager she spoke with offered to discount her bill—but didn’t do it. “We left quite disappointed” by the customer service and “knowing that they are overcharging customers with the tax.”

Berge says no one called him about Perez’s tax concern July 4—and that the manager Perez spoke to is no longer there.

“Please ask her to come in,” says Berge. “I’d like to take care of her.”

Wild Wolf added a couple of extra dollars in tax to a recent lunch tab (top).

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