Readers have opinions about shop supplies charges

Grease is just one of many products used by the service technician as part of a vehicle service or repair and these need to be charges out to be complaint with state tax laws. James Halderman photo
Grease is just one of many products used by the service technician as part of a vehicle service or repair and these need to be charges out to be complaint with state tax laws. James Halderman photo

Wheels:

In a previous column I answered some concerns that Steve C. wrote me about the extra charge he was asked to pay for “shop supplies” on his car repair bill. The charge is usually based on the percentage of the labor to account for the supplies used during the repair that are difficult to itemize.

The responses included:

  • I don’t pay for the salt and pepper when I eat at a restaurant (many wrote this one)
  • Greg T. wrote: In my first automotive job (Goodyear store), we were lucky enough to get audited for state sales tax. At that time the shop charged a straight $7.50 for wheel balance, labor only, which wasn’t taxable in that state at that time. But as you can imagine, a tire store buys a lot of wheel weights, and the state said since we bought those wheel weights without paying tax and couldn’t show we resold them, we owed sales tax on them (and many other supplies). So we changed the rate to $5.00 labor + $2.50 parts, which makes a weird total after tax, but at least we were compliant. Shops need a way to charge out difficult-to-measure items like wheel weights, brake cleaner, wheel bearing grease, etc., as parts for sales tax purposes. Body shops do it similarly, with paint and materials as a taxable item. Imagine trying to itemize masking tape …
  • Mike G. wrote: Customers just hate that added-on charge. I don’t charge any shop fees as a regular charge. I do charge for chemicals I use in the repair and they are billed-out on the invoice – even Sil glide, push-pin fasteners, wheel bearing grease. It all gets billed.

Halderman: As these people said, the extra charge is not liked by many customers and people like Steve C said “I don’t want to have to pay for their shop towels. I can buy a stack of shop towels at the local big box store for a lot less than they charged me.”

I think Greg T. explained that the shop supplies used are a taxable item and therefore need to be billed to the customer to keep them compliant with state tax laws. Mike G. itemizes everything, but for a large shop, this might not be feasible. I think using a percentage of the labor charge is one way for shops and dealers to meet their legal requirements efficiently.

Have an automotive question? Get a straight answer by writing to Jim at jim@jameshalderman.com.

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