Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Investigates Improper Sales Tax On Energy Efficiency Products

November 18, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced an investigation into consumer complaints that Lowe's improperly charged sales tax on certain energy efficiency products exempt from sales tax under state law.

In a letter to the chief executive officer of the home improvement chain, Blumenthal urged Lowe's cooperation in his investigation -- including an immediate audit of its tax charges on exempt items -- as well as refunds for consumers improperly charged.

Under state law, a wide variety of residential weatherization products -- programmable thermostats, compact fluorescent light bulbs, caulking, insulation, windows and doors that meet the federal Energy Star standard -- are exempt from Connecticut sales and use tax.

"Consumers should scrutinize their Lowe's bills for improper sales tax charges -- and contact my office about them -- because this critical exemption was designed to encourage purchases of items that are energy efficient and environmentally friendly," Blumenthal said.

"Lowe's needs to do its own in-house inspection and repair -- identifying improper sales tax and refunding consumers. This sales tax exemption is critical to protect the environment, as well as the economy. Weatherization products can be costly, and the sales tax savings substantial.

"Whether intentional or inadvertent, imposing improper sales taxes is illegal and must be stopped. As winter approaches, economic efficiency will compel consumers to buy energy efficiency products. I am confident that Lowe's will immediately cooperate by conducting an in-house audit and immediate refunds to consumers who may have been overcharged."

In 2006, Blumenthal found that Home Depot had collected sales tax on exempt energy conservation products. Home Depot acknowledged the error, attributing it to a computer glitch, and agreed to provide refunds to consumers.