CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston merchants are gearing up for the city's half-cent per dollar sales tax that takes effect Tuesday.Nancy Ward, co-owner of Cornucopia in South Hills, believes the money is going toward a good cause; it's earmarked for renovations to the Charleston Civic Center. But she says implementing the tax has not been easy to understand."It's been a little confusing because it's not really clear as to when this is going into effect," Ward said last week. "Just the other day we called down to the company that takes care of our cash registers to see about getting [the sales tax rate] changed and they were not even sure about when it's going to take effect."The state Tax Commission says they mailed letters to businesses 120 days prior to the tax taking effect.
Ward said the store is planning to change its registers to reflect the new tax rate. She did not want to make the change too soon and charge customers more than needed, but also didn't want to not charge the tax and be responsible for it later.Joe Estep, Charleston's finance director, believes businesses have had ample time to prepare and make changes. He also doesn't think the tax will force shoppers outside city limits.The city of Huntington started charging 1 percent sales tax in January 2012. Brandi Jacobs-Jones, Huntington's finance director, and said the biggest issue implementing the tax was communicating with businesses."When we began there were some issues with some businesses outside the city who thought they were inside the city," Jacobs-Jones said. "Of course any time you have a change in tax or fiscal policy you are going to hear feedback but outside of those first two weeks we have heard no complaints."The most confusing area for Charleston's tax might be along Corridor G, where some stores are in Charleston and some are in South Charleston. Sam's Club, Gander Mountain and the shops in Dudley Farms Plaza, including Kohl's, Office Max and Books-A-Million, are located in Charleston and will take on the new tax rate, Estep said.Tammy Krepshaw's business, The Consignment Company, has operated in downtown Charleston for almost 12 years. But she didn't know about the upcoming change until a reporter told her last week."One, I'm upset because I didn't know about it," Krepshaw said. "And two, I hate the burden for my customer because of the economy."She said she would pass the extra cost on to her customers - even though the extra tax on a $50 purchase would be 25 cents."They will probably think a little bit more about how much they spend," she said. "That will change things a little bit."She added every city she visits taxes a lot more than Charleston."I think our tax makes us special," Krepshaw said. "I think it should stay at 6 percent."
Contemporary Galleries in the city's furniture district is informing customers about the change with a sign in its first-floor showroom.Mary Anne Crickard, store manager, said the store has not made any major changes in its business."It's a minor thing to actually adjust the sales tax number on the register," Crickard said.Crickard said that the tax would not make much of a difference unless businesses are selling larger items."On a $5,000 sale there will be $25 in extra sales tax," she said. "I don't think that's going to make people drive to Huntington to buy something.""Nobody wants more work, nobody wants to pay more, but for most of us I don't think it is going to be that big of a deal," Crickard said. Reach Caitlin Cook at email@example.com or 304-348-5113.