Sales taxes and public improvement fees vary at area malls

5:15 AM, May 3, 2011   |    comments
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It turns out knowing what goes into that number on the bottom of your receipt could save you a lot of cash.

"I think if you're a smart shopper you're going to pay attention to those kinds of things," Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, said.

You can save big, or lose big depending on where you buy your goods.

"Retail is a competitive business," Mamet explained.

9NEWS took a journey to four large malls scattered around different areas in the metro area. We bought items that were exactly $10 at the four malls.

The blue polo shirt at Old Navy in the Northfield Stapleton Mall came to $10.77 with sales tax.

Here's the breakdown: 2.9 percent is the state sales tax, 3.62 percent is the City of Denver sales tax, 1 percent is an RTD tax, .10 percent is a tax for improvements at INVESCO Field, and another .10 percent is a sales tax for cultural facilities and programs in the metro area.

That total is 7.72 percent, which is why the $10 purchase was rounded to $10.77

All cities in Colorado will pay the state sales tax mentioned above, and most cities in the metro area will pay the RTD, INVESCO and cultural sales taxes. That means metro area consumers will pay 4.1 percent on top of their city and county sales taxes.

What about shoppers in Aurora?

We stopped at Southlands Mall and bought a $10 Denver Broncos stocking cap at Sports Authority. The total came to $10.81.

That's because the City of Aurora has a slightly higher tax than Denver (3.75 percent), and Arapahoe County also adds a quarter of a percent. That adds up to 4 percent. Add the 4.1 percent mentioned above, and that's how you get 8.1 percent

As for shoppers at Park Meadows Mall in Lone Tree? A package of white sox for $10 rang up as $10.69.

That's 12 cents cheaper than Southlands Mall and 8 cents cheaper than Northfield Stapleton Mall.

Park Meadows Mall is located in Lone Tree, and while Douglas County gets a whole percent on a sale, Lone Tree has a very low city sales tax at 1.8125 percent

How about shoppers who live in the west metro area?

At Dick's Sporting Goods in Belmar, we bought a mini football for $10 and the total came to $10.82.

The 82 cents is the highest at any of the four malls for a $10 purchase.

If you add state and metro area taxes (4.1 percent), Lakewood (3 percent) and Jefferson County (.5 percent) taxes, the total comes to 7.6 percent, not 8.2 percent.

The reason for the difference is because Belmar has a PIF, or Private Improvement Fee, it passes along to customers.

The PIF is 2.5 percent, but the City of Lakewood made a deal with Belmar to lower the city sales tax from 3 percent to 1 percent at the mall.

The PIF is added on to the total purchase, making it $10.25, which is then taxed by 5.6 percent.

"It's kind of like Home Owners Association dues," Mamet explains.

The PIF is an agreement between the mall's owner and their tenants.

It's a fee, not a sales tax; you pay as part of your purchase at Belmar.

Mamet says more and more malls in cities around the state are collecting PIFs.

"It's to keep the mall up to snuff, and attractive to have people continue to come shop there," Mamet explained.

Outside the metro, sales taxes can go as high are 9.8 percent in places like Vail, and can be 3.9 percent in smaller towns like Romeo.

A few cents difference may not seem like much, but if you or your family spends $1,000 at the same mall each year, over 20 years, here's what you'd pay in taxes at the four malls if the rates stayed the same:

Belmar = $1,640
Southlands = $1,620
Northfield Stapleton = $1,544
Park Meadows = $1,383

That means you could save hundreds of dollars depending on which mall you shop at.

Mamet says it may not make sense to drive across town and spend your dollars at a mall not located in your city.

"Those tax dollars go right back to that particular city," Mamet wanted to remind consumers.

Voters of each city decide what the sales tax rates are.

Since 1992, when Colorado municipalities started setting their own sales tax rates, voters have passed rate hikes more than they've failed (55 percent to 45 percent according to the Colorado Municipal League).

The City of Denver adds an additional tax at restaurants for food and alcohol (an extra .38 percent), which goes to the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

To find out what your sales tax is in your city and/or county, here is the link:

Click here to find out how your sales taxes break down.


(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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