Target customer greenscreen TikTok over Target self checkout charges ad total (l) woman using Target self checkout (c) Target self checkout screen showing 'Public Improvement Fee'' on every item (r)

Tada Images/Shutterstock @hollyintheclouds/TikTok (Licensed)

‘Isn’t that what sales tax is?’: Target customer says she was charged ‘public improvement fee’ on every item she bought

‘Target, I need answers.’


Jack Alban


In a now-viral TikTok, flight attendant and TikToker Holly Teska (@hollyintheclouds) said she was charged an additional 2.5% per item on top of sales tax during a recent trip to Target.

“So, I was purchasing my items, checking out in the self-checkout, and I noticed that there was a new public improvement fee, which was 2.5% per item,” Teska said.

Teska then displayed an image of her self-checkout screen, which showed a list of items with a “public improvement fee” charge under each.

“I’m just wondering, like, ‘public improvement,’ isn’t that what sales tax is? Like, what do we pay sales tax for?” Teska asked.

She concluded by asserting, “Target, I need answers.”

@hollyintheclouds I need answers @target #greenscreen #moneytok ♬ original sound – Holly Teska

This isn’t the first time public improvement fees (PIFs) have garnered mainstream attention. According to FOX 21’s 2018 coverage of shoppers’ complaints about PIFs in Colorado Springs, Colorado, it all boils down to landlords who levy the fee. These fees are then passed down to the shoppers.

“All three businesses in that area tell FOX21 they receive complaints about the PIF every day. They simply try to explain to the customer that it was put into place by the landlord, not the store itself,” the outlet reports.

According to the article, essentially, landlords renting out the spaces want a slice of all the goods sold on their turf in addition to the monthly rent business owners pay.

A 2021 story penned by Southern Colorado news station and NBC affiliate KOAA also highlights customer frustration with PIFs.

The outlet writes: “It’s not a tax, it’s not something voters vote on, and the City of Colorado Springs does not impose the fees. Instead, it’s a fee set by the developer or landlord of the property, which the businesses sit on. The developer then collects the funds from it.”

Some TikTokers who saw Teska’s post repeated what the local news agencies reported regarding PIFs.

“It’s not a Target thing. The PIF is implemented by the owner of the land and building not the lessee. Just more greed passed onto us,” one commenter wrote.

“It’s a type of sales tax and Target isn’t charging it, the municipality where the store is charges it,” another commented.

One other TikTok user also mentioned that these PIFs are endemic to Colorado.

“Looked it up and it’s a fee from the owner of the land the business sits on. It’s only in Colorado,” they wrote.

This appears to be supported by outlets like Energy Link and other Colorado-based information resources.

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