CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The ongoing situation involving businesses outside Charleston charging the city's new sales tax is new for Kanawha County, but not for other areas of the state.
The state's first two cities to have sales taxes -- Williamstown and Huntington -- have dealt with the problem before.
Williamstown was the first West Virginia city to enact a sales tax, doing so in 2011. Though Williamstown does not have home rule, it was able to enact the tax because it did not have a business and occupation tax.
Williamstown Councilwoman Barbara Lewis said a few businesses outside city limits began charging the 1 percent tax, including a Dollar General a few miles beyond the city limits.
Part of the confusion stemmed from the fact that some businesses located outside the city still have a Williamstown address. City leaders came up with a quick method to determine if a business should charge the tax.
"If they have city water, they have to charge the tax," Lewis said, adding that the city's water system lines up with city limits.
"It's an easy solution," she said.
Still, it took some time for issues to be resolved. Lewis said Williamstown took a proactive approach -- sending notices to all nearby businesses explaining the change.
"That's a difficult chore," she said. "But that's what you need to do is send out letters to the businesses. It'll probably take some time."
A few months after Williamstown enacted its tax, Huntington followed suit.
"When that happened, there was one major retailer (outside the city limits) that began to charge the additional 1 percent," said Deron Runyon, Huntington's finance director.
That retailer was Wal-Mart, though Runyon didn't identify it by name.
However, Runyon said both the retailer and the city were proactive about the issue when it was discovered, and the store stopped charging the tax within a few days.
"In the defense of the retailer, they are just outside city limits," Runyon said.
Since then, Runyon said the city has been active in pursuing any instances where consumers think the city tax may be erroneously applied, but have not discovered any cases so far.