A bill that would help veteran vendors recover thousands of dollars in lost sales tax and interest was approved on the California Assembly floor on Thursday. The bill passed out of the Assembly 75-0.

AB 919 would reimburse certain disabled itinerant veteran vendors for any sales tax, interest and penalties not collected from customers, but paid out of their own pockets during the period between April 1, 2002, and April 1, 2010.

The bill would apply to a qualified disabled veteran vendor who:

» Has paid state and local sales and use taxes between April 1, 2002, and April 1, 2010

» Not collected sales tax reimbursement from customers

» Paid interest or penalties associated with tax liabilities

Some veterans returning to civilian life have struggled to re-integrate into society. Unable to find a job, many veterans become vendors selling art, food, books and other items.

For many years, certain veteran vendors believed they were exempt from paying any license, tax or fee, whatsoever, for their sales of goods, wares, or merchandise they own under the Business and Professions Code. The Board of Equalization in 2002, however, considered veteran vendors “retailers” and, therefore, pursued collection of sales tax, interest and penalties. Due to the misinterpretation, veteran vendors failed to collect sales tax reimbursement from customers resulting in out-of-pocket payment to the BOE.

“It’s time to make this situation right,” said Assemblymember Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara. “These veterans served our country and were rightfully exempt from paying these fees. Now that everyone understands the law better, these veterans should be entitled to reimbursement.”

AB 919 would require a qualified veteran vendor to submit a written claim before Jan. 1, 2016, in order to obtain reimbursement. The total amount of funds available for qualified repayment for all vendors is capped at $50,000. If the total amount of claims filed exceeds $50,000, the BOE will determine the pro rata share due to each qualified veteran.

“The amount of money that these veterans would receive may seem small, but it is a big deal to those of us who own these small businesses,” said Bill Connell, owner of All-American Surf Dog.

The bill now moves to the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance.

Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios is a district director for Assemblyman Das Williams.