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Florida, Illinois pizza patrons sue Papa John's over collection of sales tax on delivery charges

The hubby and I prefer take-and-bake pizzas to the done-and-delivered variety. While that means one of us has to go pick up our pies, it also means we don't have to worry at all about taxes on delivery charges.

Those extra tax amounts are the basis for two lawsuits, one in Florida and another in Illinois, against Papa John's pizza.

Pizza courtesy Park Hill Pizza Fitchburg Massachusetts; pizza delivery tax lawsuit pending against Papa Johns in Florida and Illinois

The Illinois legal action, Zachary Tucker et al. v. Papa John's International Inc., was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Illinois. It contends that the pizza chain's charging of sales tax on their delivery fee violates Illinois law.

A similar suit, Bruce Schojan v. Papa John's International, Inc., was filed in the Circuit Court of Hillsboro County, Florida.

As in the Illinois lawsuit, Schojan charges Papa John's franchises with collecting taxes on delivery fees even though Sunshine State law says sales taxes are not applicable to delivery services.

Pennies' possible payout: A typical delivery fee of $2.39, according to the Tucker filing, means the customer is charged an additional 16 cents.

Who sues over pennies? Plenty of folks.

Why is a different question.

"The motivation for such lawsuits is hard to gauge," writes Gail Cole at Tax Rates Blog for Avalara, which provides tax and compliance systems for companies. "It may be a simple matter of civic-mindedness, citizens who don't want to be taxed unfairly. It may stem from concerns that businesses are skimming the difference, therefore stealing from customers. No one likes to be robbed, even if the theft only amounts to a nickel or two. And it may be that some people, aware of sales tax law, see an opportunity to be rewarded damages by the courts."

Call me a cynic, but I tend to see most cases as falling into the big courtroom payoff category.

Cumulative class actions: If the cases are allowed to go forward as class actions, those pennies could quickly add up.

Under a class action filing, all qualifying members of the class -- in these cases, that's folks who had the allegedly over-taxed pizzas brought to their homes during a certain time period -- will get a slice of any damages.

Florida and Illinois pizza lovers and former Papa John's patrons, however, shouldn't be counting their potential court-awarded sales-tax rebates just yet.

There's lots of legal wrangling left before either court reaches a final decision.

And now I've got to go figure out what's for dinner since I'm no longer in a pizza mood.

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