What Is a PIF and Why Am I Constantly Paying It in Fort Collins Colorado?
The older I get, the more I become like my parents. I now notice myself doing all the little quirky things they used to do that drove me nuts as a kid, which, in this case? I'm talking about agonizing over every single line item on receipts.
One item catches my eye from time to time and I didn't know what it was until I did a little research. Now that I know what it is and why I'm paying for it, I loathe it even more. Sure, it's usually the smallest item on the receipt. And I'm happy to pay my fair share in taxes, but this isn't a tax. This is essentially an extra fee for shopping or dining in certain places that go into someone else's pocket.
I'm talking about that little line item on some receipts that says "PIF." That stands for "Public Improvement Fee" and guess what? It only exists in the state of Colorado. Sometimes you'll see it labeled as "RSF," which stands for Retail Sales Fee.
For starters, PIFs and RSFs are not a tax. They are not imposed by any city, county, or state government. And because they're not a tax, they are taxable... meaning, they get added to your bill before tax is applied.
These fees are imposed by and paid to - wait for it - the developer of whatever shopping center you're conducting business in. They usually vary anywhere between 0.5% and 2% of the final cost of whatever you're buying, whether a new shirt at the mall or lunch for your family at your favorite restaurant. Businesses that lease space from these developers are required to pass this fee onto you, and most of them will have a sign posted somewhere near the register letting you know about it and what it is.
The money that is collected from you by the businesses you patronize is then paid to the landlord essentially and used toward improvements around the shopping center, like sidewalks and trash cans and drainage, etc. All of the little projects a developer will do to a shopping center over time are at least partially subsidized by these little fees that add up over time. The rent they collect from the businesses operating there isn't enough to do that already.
In the City of Fort Collins, there are four retail areas where businesses are required by the developers who own them to collect these fees. Front Range Village, Foothills Mall, The Exchange, and Harmony Commons all impose a PIF of some degree.
The City of Loveland also has a few areas in town where a PIF is imposed. The Promenade Shops, Centerra Marketplace, and the Centerra Motorplex all charge a fee, and the city - for its part - reduces the city sales tax from 3% to 1.5% in these areas to offset that fee. Which is very nice of them.
You can read more about PIFs and RSFs across the state of Colorado as a whole from our friends at Denver7.