On January 7, 2013 [name omitted], former owner of Fair Deal Auto Sales of Tampa, Inc., was arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on felony charges concerning theft of over $91,000 of sales tax allegedly collected but not remitted to the state. The business owned and operated a car dealership 11901 North Nebraska Avenue, Tampa, Florida. [Name omitted] faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines in addition to repayment of stolen taxes, interest, and investigation expenses. If the dollar amount exceeded $100,000, then the business owner would be facing 1st degree felony charges punishable up to 30 years in jail. According to investigators, [name omitted] collected sales tax from customers at the dealerships but during periods from 2006 through 2012, but he failed to remit to the state all the sales tax he collected or file tax returns as mandated by Florida law.
Florida law requires business owners that sell, repair, rent, or provide services to act as an agent to the state and they must remit all sales tax collected to state of Florida. Car dealers are a significant source of sales tax revenue for the state of Florida and, as such, face close scrutiny from the Florida Department of Revenue. Further, Florida sales tax is required to be separately stated on the customers invoice and Florida law mandates that the taxes collected be the property of the state from the moment it is collected from the customer. Therefore, despite putting these amounts in their own checking accounts, business owners must segregate sales tax collect and remit it to the state in a timely fashion. Automobile sales are recorded and tracked by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, so any dealer's sales to in-state car owners can and will be tracked by the Florida Department of Revenue. In fact, the Department of Revenue is putting together a statewide task force to review the records of every used car dealership in Florida by comparing sales tax returns to DMV records. (see link to article on this below)
Sales tax collected but not remitted is a crime under Florida law and must be taken extremely seriously. It surprises most business owners to know that the Florida Department of Revenue is dramatically more likely to arrest a business owner for tax fraud than the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). While both the IRS and the Florida Department of Revenue will put tax liens on the business property (called a "Tax Warrant" in Florida), the Florida Department of Revenue will also put the business owner in jail if the taxes and all associated penalties, interest, fines, and costs are not remitted.
If you or someone you know has collected but not remitted Florida sales tax, then please contact an attorney experienced in Florida sales and use tax criminal defense for a confidential conversation to discuss his or her options. There are mechanisms in place that allow individuals or their attorney to negotiate with the state to enter into a payment plan. While the monetary sanctions can be harsh, it is better than losing one's freedom. Like any other crime, anything said by you is an admission and can be used against you at a criminal trial. Therefore, it is wise to have an attorney speak on your behalf.
At the Law Office of the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A., our primary practice area is Florida taxes, with a very heavy emphasis in Florida sales and use tax. We have defended clients against criminal charges related to Florida sales and use taxes for more than 20 years. In fact, the only criminal cases we handle are related to Florida sales and use taxes. Our partners are both CPAs and Attorneys, so we understand both the accounting side of the situation as well as the legal side. We represent taxpayers and business owners from the entire state of Florida. Call our offices today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION to confidentially discuss how we can help put this nightmare behind you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MR. SUTTON IS A FLORIDA LICENSED CPA AND ATTORNEY AND A SHAREHOLDER IN THE LAW FIRM the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. MR. SUTTON IS IN CHARGE OF THE TAMPA OFFICE FOR THE FIRM AND HIS PRIMARY PRACTICE IS FLORIDA SALES AND USE TAX CONTROVERSY & CRIMINAL DEFENSE. MR. SUTTON WORKED FOR THE STATE AND LOCAL TAX DEPARTMENT OF A BIG FIVE ACCOUNTING FIRM FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS AND HAS BEEN AN ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF LAW AT STETSON UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW SINCE 2002 TEACHING STATE AND LOCAL TAX, ACCOUNTING FOR LAWYERS, AND FEDERAL INCOME TAX I. YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT MR. SUTTON IN HIS FIRM BIO.
FL TAX ALERT - USED CAR DEALERS TARGETED!!!!, January 19, 2013, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq.
FL TAX ALERT – CONVENIENCE STORE OWNERS TARGETED!, August 16, 2012, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq., and Jerry Donnini, Esq.
TAMPA JEWELRY STORE MANAGER ARRESTED FOR SALES TAX THEFT, August 30, 2012, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq.
MIAMI AUTO REPAIR SHOP OWNER ARRESTED FOR SALES TAX, August 25, 2012, by Jerry Donnini, Esq.
FT. MYERS BUINESS OWNER ARRESTED FOR FAILING TO REMIT ONLY $8,000 IN SALES TAX COLLECTED, August 11, 2012, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq.
FL DOR'S GREATEST WEAPON – REVOCATION OF DEALER'S SALES TAX CERTIFICATE, August 6, 2012, by Jerry Donnini, Esq.
© 2013 All rights reserved - James H Sutton Jr