Do an Internet search for items that contain petroleum and you’ll come across a list which includes hundreds of regular household items from cosmetics to appliances. But just because they contain petroleum doesn’t mean the state of Connecticut will be applying the gross receipts tax to them, right?

That was the question Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, got at a Chamber of Commerce meeting last week. He didn’t know the answer off the top of his head so he called the Senate Republican research team and asked them to find out whether the gross receipts tax applies to things such as petroleum jelly. They concluded the law was not clear and it’s possible items such as lipstick may fall under the tax.

“Despite several exemptions listed … there is no mention of products such as petroleum jelly, mineral spirits and lubricants, meaning that these products would be taxable,” Witkos said his staff concluded.

Not true, Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan said Monday.

Sullivan said he heard the radio interview Witkos did with Dan Lovallo and was upset he didn’t seek clarification from his office before doing a radio show about the gross receipts tax.

“None of the consumer products that you discussed—insect repellant, trash bags, tires, clothes, CDs, deodorant, rubbing alcohol and more—have ever been subject to this tax under state law adopted by the state legislature,” Sullivan wrote Witkos in this letter.

Witkos said he appreciated the clarification and is happy the tax, which is currently 7 percent, isn‘t being applied to these consumer products, but maintains the law as it’s currently written is confusing.

“It’s not a partisan thing,” Witkos said. “I was just trying to be responsive to a constituent.”

Witkos refused to describe the constituent and what type of business they are in because he didn’t want them to suffer any retribution for asking the question.

But Sullivan was not pleased with how the incident unfolded.

“Having always been respectful and responsive to you in the past, I have to say I am profoundly disappointed by what you did,” Sullivan wrote. “Now that you have the facts, I trust you will set the record straight.”

Witkos said he’s will introduce legislation in January to make sure the law is clarified and there’s no confusion over how the tax is applied.

The gross receipts tax is levied at the wholesale level and applies to gasoline and motor oils.