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I live in Tallahassee, Florida where everyone gets their electricity from Talgov. I recently looked at my utility bills and realized my electricity charges were about 10-11% larger each month than I expected from the rate posted on the website. I went to my account and saw this discrepancy came from a section on the monthly bill called "Taxes & Credits" so it appears I am being taxed on my electricity. However, when I Google "florida sales tax exemption electricity", the first result has a paragraph that says:

Condos & Homeowners Associations

This exemption is based upon Section 212.08(7) (j), Florida Statutes and Department of Revenue Rule 12A-1.053(1)(a). The sale of electric power or energy by an electric utility is taxable. The sale of electric power or energy for use in residential households, to owners of residential models, or to licensed family day care homes by utilities who are required to pay the gross receipts tax imposed by Chapter 203, F.S., is exempt.

Section 212.08(7) (j) reads:

(j) Household fuels.—Also exempt from payment of the tax imposed by this chapter are sales of utilities to residential households or owners of residential models in this state by utility companies who pay the gross receipts tax imposed under s. 203.01, and sales of fuel to residential households or owners of residential models, including oil, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, coal, wood, and other fuel products used in the household or residential model for the purposes of heating, cooking, lighting, and refrigeration, regardless of whether such sales of utilities and fuels are separately metered and billed direct to the residents or are metered and billed to the landlord. If any part of the utility or fuel is used for a nonexempt purpose, the entire sale is taxable. The landlord shall provide a separate meter for nonexempt utility or fuel consumption. For the purposes of this paragraph, licensed family day care homes shall also be exempt.

The second Google result says:

Florida Sales Tax on Energy/Electricity

  • Florida has an automatic residential sales tax exemption for residences and common areas of residential complexes used exclusively for residential purposes. If any of the energy serving a meter is used for commercial purposes, the entire electricity usage is taxable.

There is also a PDF link on the Talgov website to an "Application For Refund Of Florida State Sales Tax". Can I just fill out this application and get back the 10% extra I've been paying on my electricity? I certainly don't use any of my electricity for "commercial purposes".

I found this news article from over four years ago that seems to be related, but it doesn't give a final answer either way.

  • It sounds like you should be exempt, so I would just file the application. If it works, problem solved. If not, you can pursue the matter further (possibly with legal advice). – chepner Nov 26 '17 at 15:19
  • Have you contacted the electric company and asked them? – Ben Miller - Reinstate Monica Nov 26 '17 at 18:19
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    A lack of a sales tax doesn't mean there are no taxes. – Loren Pechtel Nov 26 '17 at 21:25
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As it turns out, Talgov has a convoluted way it bills taxes which it doesn't explain on its bills or website. Its website claims to bill electricity at a rate of $7.59/month + $0.10522/kWh but, with taxes, it actually comes to $8.5631/month plus $0.11598/kWh.

On top of the advertised rate, it bills a gross receipts tax of 2.56406%. It also bills a public service tax of 10% on the monthly charge + $.07792/kWh + the gross receipts tax. That gets you the higher effective billing rate I mentioned above. The $.07792/kWh is reached by replacing the ECRC rate from the website with $.0077/kWh--I don't know why and I can't find an official document saying this--but that's what is happening apparently.

So, Talgov doesn't bill sales tax after all and private residences are not exempt from the taxes it bills. Thus, it has not overcharged me a tax I should be exempt from and Talgov is allowed to do what it is doing, but it would be better if they represented their billing rate more honestly on their website. I'm also still not sure how they reach their 2.56406% gross receipt tax rate. The Florida statute that addresses gross receipt tax seems to specify either 2.5% or 2.6% (I can't figure out which should apply), but not something in between:

(b)

1. The rate applied to utility services shall be 2.5 percent.

2. The rate applied to communications services shall be 2.37 percent.

3. An additional rate of 0.15 percent shall be applied to communication services subject to the tax levied pursuant to s. 202.12(1)(a), (c), and (d). The exemption provided in s. 202.125(1) applies to the tax levied pursuant to this subparagraph.

4. The rate applied to electrical power or energy taxed under subparagraph (a)3. shall be 2.6 percent.

I found the information about the Talgov tax rates in a document from a Jacksonville utility company that compares utility rates for various utility companies, including many in Florida. Some Florida companies use a 2.5% gross receipt tax and some use a rate between 2.5% and 2.6%. This is also strange because that Florida statute seems to suggest the rate should be uniform statewide.

TL;DR: Talgov is not charging sales tax, but rather some other taxes that I am not exempt from. I was able to figure out what rates they were charging for those taxes, but not why.

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