If you operate a business in Florida that collects sales tax from your customers, take note, the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) has been steadily increasing the number of felony arrest warrants issued for tax crimes. To be sure, the IRS has a formidable criminal tax division, but Florida business owners who don’t respect tax laws are more likely to be arrested by their county sheriff before a federal Treasury agent even knows their name.
The majority of Florida’s criminal tax prosecutions are against business owners who collect sales tax from customers but fail to send the money to the DOR.
- Under Florida law, sales tax is the property of the state the moment it is collected from the customer.
So even if you are strapped for cash and think you can “borrow” the state’s money until things get better, DON’T DO IT. Even if you return the “borrowed” sales tax in a later return, you still have committed a crime!
- Just failing to file several consecutive sales tax returns can lead to your arrest.
This is what happened to the owner of Villa Habana Restaurant, of Miami in May of 2014. It was obvious to the DOR and anyone in the area that the restaurant was open and serving customers. And since no returns were filed, neither was the sales tax that he was collecting.
Mr. Diaz is facing felony and misdemeanor charges relating to his failure to file sales and use tax returns.
The former owner of Calico Jack’s restaurant in Gainesville was arrested for charges of stealing over $58,000 in sales tax she collected from customers, but failed to send to the state. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison.
And in Ocala, the former owner of Gator Auto Sales, LLC was arrested on charges that she stole more than $110,000 in sales tax collected from customers, but not sent in to the state.
If you suspect that your business has not been correctly reporting or remitting sales and use tax to the state, please contact a qualified Florida tax attorney immediately because if the DOR hasn’t contacted you about this liability yet, you may be eligible for the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP). You still have to pay the taxes but you may be able to avoid some penalties and keep your freedom!
If you are considered that you may have under-reported sales tax or delinquent returns with the DOR, call your Florida Tax Attorney today for a free legal consultation.