Best Buy Apologizes For Charging You Too Much Tax On Your DTV Converter Box

The way coupons are taxed is different in every state— and believe us — it gets really complicated. The general rule, in most (but not all) states is that consumers are taxed on the full amount of the transactionincluding any reimbursement that the store gets.

Because retailers will be reimbursed for the cost of the DTV boxes, most states will require the retailer to collect taxes for the full amount of the transaction. Just to make things even more confusing, a few states appear to be making an exception to their tax laws for the DTV program… and… To make a long story short: If you live in Texas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — check your receipts, because Best Buy was incorrectly charging sales tax on the full amount and is now issuing refunds. If this issue is confusing enough that a large retailer like Best Buy got it wrong, it’s likely that other retailers have also made some errors.

Reader and blogger M got a letter from Best Buy apologizing for the error, complete with a check for $3.30.

If you have any questions about the amount of tax you were charged for your DTV box, we recommend contacting your state’s attorney general or your state’s Comptroller’s office. They should be able to explain the specific laws of your state.

Best Buy Letter [Texas Money Talk]
(Photo: classeamplifiers )


Edit Your Comment

  1. Silversmok3 says:

    While its important in spirit to be charged accurately for a purchase, I fail to see the benefit of a $3.30 refund in an age where gas costs $4.25 a gallon.

  2. blong81 says:

    @Silversmok3: Imagine if everyone you bought something from ripped your off for $3.30. That would add up quick.

  3. MayorBee says:

    If anyone doesn’t want their $3.30, I’ll take it. I can understand how the mistake was made. Kudos to Best Buy (for once) for stepping up to the plate and fixing it. Also, they’re bearing the expense of identifying the customers affected and of printing and mailing checks out.

  4. mgy says:

    Does anyone know if you buy a converter box with a government debit card if you can return the box for store credit later?

    …just asking.

  5. jonathan. says:

    @Silversmok3: er…you can use it to go by gas?

  6. berne21 says:

    Nice job by best buy they owned up to a mistake. ANd no you cannot return them at a later date. If you use the coupon it becomes exchange only due to defect with in the first 90 days. I work for a retailer who sells these things and it is an uber pain in the ass because of the fact we cant keep them in stock and coupons are expiring now…

  7. okvol says:

    By the way, if you live more than 50 miles (less in non-flat, wide open terrain), you probably won’t get most of the stations that you can receive analog. Check out the Cliff Effect.

    I bought a box just in case my cable goes out and there is rough weather. I’m in Enid, OK. I can only get one OKC station out of five. I get PBS because of a rebroadcast station is much closer.

    I was charged full taxes: this is OK where the lawmakers are more ignorant than Texas.

  8. FatLynn says:

    @okvol: Do you have your own version of “Big John”?

  9. Luck4Losers says:

    @mgy: You can return it, but only get the amount you paid, you cannot get the $40 from the government coupon. (I work in retail, and have had to deal with this issue before)

  10. Orv says:

    @mgy: No. That’s specifically forbidden.

    @okvol: It actually goes both ways. Some stations seem to have anticipated the digital cliff effect and gone for a higher ERP level to try to get the same coverage area. I know of people who had very snowy, almost unwatchable analog reception who none-the-less got perfect digital reception of the same stations. Complicating matters are the different frequencies involved — in hilly areas there are frequency-dependent effects like knife-edge propagation that can cause a change in a station’s channel number to vastly change reception.

  11. azntg says:

    @mgy: That’s a good question. Short answer is maybe, but if it happens, only the amount in excess of the coupon value.

    The debit card states “Coupon has no cash avlue and cannot be redeemed for cash or credit. Coupon value will not be refunded if box is returned.”

    I seriously doubt the merchants (except in case of clerical errors) will defy that and give you full store credit.

    @okvol: Yeah, I was always wondering about that. Before, with my analog TV reception, at the right weather, I would be able to get reception of stations airing from Central New Jersey, Western Connecticut and from Long Island from my house in New York City.

    With digital TV receptions, pictures and sounds for stations is crystal clear for NYC based stations, but I must’ve lost at least a half dozen stations airing from out of state.

    So for guys like you, cable is more or less a necessity if you even want to watch basic OTA TV. So, next time I make arguments about cable not being a necessity, guys and girls in your situation don’t count as long as it can be afforded, okay? ;-)

  12. poornotignorant says:

    I remember thinking how the government was ripping me off to the tune of $2.80×2(7% sales tax for 2 boxes), for not just reimbursing the stores or something other than taxing me on full price. As of this moment I can’t find my reciept, so I’m out of luck.
    I wish The Consumerist would update us on the whole thing – like availability of the boxes, like what about the boxes with timers and channel changers to be used with VCRs. I was in Sears the other day and the VCRs were only in combo with DVD players and they had no tuners(not that they had HD tuners, they had no tuners). As far as I can figure out DVRs and the like (TiVo) need pay TV like cable or satellite to record programs. If one has only OTA TV how can TV be recorded to be watched at my convenience? Also, a few stores are selling SDTV at a more affordable price than HDTV. Are those always going to be sold? Sears salesman says no.

  13. lingum says:


    What is this VCR thingie you speak of? ;-)

    To answer your question, you set your tv and VCR to channel 3. You set your digital box to the station you want to record from and set the reel to reel to record at whatever time jeopardy or wheel of fortune comes on and that’s it. Turn tv off, leave everything else on and go play shuffleboard/bingo.

    Standard televisions will go away within the next couple months. There’s really no reason to buy one at this late date unless you want to be stuck with the above setup for years to come.

  14. NumberFiveIsAlive says:

    Went by Best Buy today, saw a sign out front that said ‘we are out of converter boxes’, and I was just like, ‘wtf, are they that popular?’ This explains it. I live in TX btw.

  15. farker says:

    I think if you return the item, the money gets refunded to the Treasury. You don’t get the value of the coupon back since it wasn’t yours to begin with.

    On another note, I ordered two coupons and am going to get them in case of an emergency.

    If the cable system is out and we have severe weather here in Houston, I’d certainly like to have some way of receiving weather reports other than online.

  16. joebobfunguy says:

    @poornotignorant: I kept trying to figure out what clever use of the word porno in a user name that was. I got to porno tiger rant, and then I got it. By the way to everyone: If the cable is out, which is buried underground, then your f*cked.

  17. ellastar says:

    RadioShack was charging the full tax too, at least in California. We got a memo recently instructing us on how to adjust the tax so that the customer is only charged tax on the price they pay. I thought, that’s all fine and dandy for customers who are buying the converter boxes now, but what about people who already bought theirs? (Had some people comment about how they shouldn’t be charged full tax when they got it). As far as I know, nothing has gone out informing customers of this. But, I might be wrong.

    I’m pretty sure that California has some exception about not being charged the full tax as well as Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, as that’s the entire reason the memo went out.

  18. okvol says:

    @FatLynn: No, but we had a governor who declared marshal law and married his step-daughter.

  19. txpunk says:

    @blong81: Like paying 4.509 for gas?

    I do think that this was just a case of ignorance on the part of Best Buy (and the consumers). They are too busy thinking up other schemes (line the two different Best Buy “websites”).

    The internets provide most of what I want to watch “on demand.”

  20. poornotignorant says:

    @lingum: I’m not ignorant, like you want to assume. Overnite or when I’m out of the house I might want to record programs on two or more channels at different times. You’ve got it all figured out, tell me how to do that. Another problem I forgot to mention in my last post, my setup had an antenna to a vcr to another vcr to the tv. But now the converter does not “pass through” the analog signal to the next device, every device needs it’s own antenna and own converter box and can’t connect in series to the TV(wires, wires, everywhere). Where are the converter boxes that are supposed to pass through the signal?
    By the way, what do you watch, those fictional “news” programs? And the only way to being financially rich is prostituting yourself, destroying others and/or living off Daddy who does those things. Think about your road.

  21. poornotignorant says:

    @lingum: Oh and SDTV should be around as long as they are broadcasting in digital. Do you even know what SDTV is? Do you know what Google is?

  22. FLConsumer says:

    I’ve yet to find a situation where DTV reception is as good or better than analog. And I’ve yet to pull clear DTV reception in my car, even when I put an antenna on the roof. Analog wasn’t perfect while the car was moving with an internal antenna, but it was at least usable.

    Can’t wait for next hurricane season. Cable TV’s usually the first thing to go down and last to come back up. Wonder how they expect people to watch TV for emergency info (because I know officials will tell people to watch local media for info) when analog’s been shut down and battery operated TVs are the norm. Good chance your DTV converter box isn’t going to run on a few D-cells.