NAPLES, Italy — With fuel prices nearing $9 a gallon at Italian service stations, tax-free gas coupons are a lifeline for those stationed here.

But when Shawna Stevenson went to put gas in her car a few weeks ago, she was told by the station attendant she couldn’t use her tax-free fuel coupons.

It’s a good thing she asked first. She had planned to purchase 40 liters, which would have cost her about 60 euros — close to $100. With the coupons, the cost would have been about $45.

Tax-free fuel coupons are supposed to be accepted at all Esso and Agip stations in Italy — the only two contracted to participate in the tax-free program.

"I asked if they took the coupons before I got the gas. When they said ‘no’, I just left and filled up at another station that did take them," Stevenson said. She raised the issue at Wednesday night’s town hall meeting on the support site in Gricignano.

"We’ve had a few folks who have experienced this," said Capt. Floyd Hehe, commanding officer for Naval Support Activity Naples, at the meeting. "If this does happen, and you have to pay using cash or credit card, make sure to get a receipt with the name and location of the gas station. The Tax-Free Office will be able to take care of it."

There have only been about five reported instances of Esso or Agip stations refusing to take the fuel coupons in the past year, according to Bart Di Muccio, administrator for the tax-free office on the Navy base at Capodichino in Naples.

"If customers have to buy fuel, and are unable to use the coupons at an Agip or Esso station, they can follow the procedures we have for reimbursement," Di Muccio said.

Customers should take their fuel receipt, and the same amount in fuel coupons, to the Tax-Free office on Capodichino. Di Muccio said he sends a letter to the company headquarters in Rome. The company then sends a check back to his office for the customer, in the full amount of fuel purchased.

"It’s important to notify our office of any Agip or Esso stations in Italy that don’t take the coupons, even if the customer didn’t actually purchase gas," Di Muccio said.

The Tax-Free Office’s phone number is 081-568-5439 or 5440, or DSN is 626-5439 or 5440.

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