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Pine Falls business charged $23,000 for not charging customers tax on water

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WATCH: A Manitoba business owner is shocked after receiving a bill for $23,000 for not charging his customers taxes on bottled water. Global's Lorraine Nickel reports. – May 30, 2017

A small business owner in Pine Falls can’t believe it after he was penalized over $23,000 for not charging his customers tax on water.

“I was angry at first, I knew I’d get a big bill,” Laurent Raymond has owned Clark’s Corner Esso Store on Highway 304 for 11 years.

For 11 years he’s never charged his customers tax on water bottles.

“I didn’t know I had to.”

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But after a provincial tax auditor showed up at his store last week, he was told he had to tax customers if they bought the 591 ml bottle, the one litre bottle is not taxed.

“I didn’t know that,” Raymond said. “They should come to a store when a new owner takes over to make sure you’re doing it right before you get slammed with a hefty bill… How am I going to pay this?”

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The $23,000 tax bill is the accumulation of taxes from water bottles that Raymond sold in the last six years plus interest. The province can’t go back more than six years in owed taxes.

“When he came in he went straight for the water and even said to me, a lot of small businesses make this mistake,” Raymond said.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

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Milk, cheese and eggs are just some foods that are considered as essential foods and are not taxed, Raymond said, “I’m not a nutritionist, but isn’t water essential?”

No one from the province would go on camera to explain what happened only to say they follow the GST rules for taxing.