The purpose of this article is to bring to light something despicable happening in Florida. The group that I refer to as our Draconian[1] Comrades in Tallahassee are continuing their harassment of innocent Florida residents and business owners. The Florida Current reported on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 that the Florida Department of Revenue issued over 7,000 erroneous tax warrants in 2013. This came to light when Governor Rick Scott received an erroneous tax warrant and the media started making serious inquiries into how often something like this might happen. (view a copy of the Tax Warrant against Gov Scott) Unfortunately, taxpayer's usually have to hire professionals to fight back when an errant tax warrant is issued, which can cost thousands of dolllars just to convenice the FL DOR of their mistake. What I find even more telling is that the Florida Department of Revenue already has a form for withdrawing Tax Warrants isssued in error, a "ZT35: Florida Department of Revenue Withdrawal of Warrant and Release of Purported Tax Lien." (view a copy of the Tax Warrant Withdrawal for Gov Scott)

I've been trying to get the FL DOR to reel in their overly aggressive tactics for years. Major business groups representing around 50,000 businesses met with the FL DOR top brass and two people from the Governor's office this Spring to specifically address how overly aggressive the DOR has become. This is nowhere close to the first time something like this has happened. For example, framed in my office is a certified copy of an erroneous tax warrant was issued against the Florida Supreme Court (which turned out to be intended for the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society that gives tours of the Court).

Tax warrants are liens against a person or business's assets. They are often issued with no human approval. In as little as 20 days from the issuance of the tax warrant, the FL DOR will begin collections procedures - which includes freezing bank accounts. Collections agents are trained to tell this business owners that all appeal rights have past and there is nothing that they can do except pay. The state even sends the matter to outside collection agencies to begin harassing taxpayers.

Seriously, can you imagine getting a call telling you that your bank account has been frozen by the state? All the checks you have written are bouncing – and each one is incurring a bank fee. Your suppliers immediately stop delivers because they think you are in financial trouble. Your credit takes a serious hit because a tax lien now appears on your business's credit history. You have no idea why this is happening, so you call your CPA or Attorney for help. Together, you call the FL DOR, who forwards you to the collection department. A collection agent tells you that there has been a tax warrant filed on your business for tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes. When you try to explain that this must be a mistake, that you have no idea what they are talking about and that you don't owe any taxes – the collection agent says …

"Sorry, but all your appeal rights have past. You owe this money and we are not going to even discuss releasing your bank account unless we get at least 25% of the funds you owe."

This scary scenario is happening 100's and 100's of times a month in our great state – and the FL DOR is letting it happen. There is very little oversight into confirming whether the correct taxpayer is being contacted or whether official notices are being received by honest business owners. In fact, something I find appalling is that if mail to a taxpayer is returned undeliverable – everything proceeds as if the taxpayer received the notice. Then there is the very common circumstance of the FL Department of Revenue sending notices to old mailing addresses, even though the FL DOR has the new address. I've seen notices sent to an elementary school in the Tampa Bay area based on the street address of property owned by the school – but the address is not a valid US mailing address. The local collection agent did not care and it did not get resolved until we took the matter up the chain of command in Tallahassee.

Fox News Channel 13 in Tampa did a report on the erroneous tax warrants, which can be see here:

Personally - I see a lot of tax warrants issued for perceived real property rentals when the property owner is neither renting the property nor did they ever hear from the FL DOR until the tax warrant is issued and their bank account is frozen. This is because there is no confirmation that the state is using the correct address or that the taxpayer actually received the inquiry into the business's potential rental activity. Quite often the first the taxpayer learns of the state's inquiry into the rental is when the bank account is frozen. I get the call from an extremely upset business owner desperately looking for help to fight back against the extremely overly aggressive tactics of the Florida Department of Revenue.

Anyone else experiencing erroneous tax warrants and ridiculously aggressive collection departments? I would love to hear your stories – and so would the press, your state politicians, and the governor's office. It is time that the Department of Revenue truly starts treating residents and business owners in Florida with the professionalism required under Florida's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Section 213.015, Florida Statutes. I am personally pushing for legislation to be enacted given "teeth" to the Florida Taxpayer Bill of Rights that will make the DOR accountable for blatant violations of taxpayer rights. Freezing your bank account with no actual notice and for completely erroneous assessment is clearly such a violation.

The Law Offices of the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. is a firm with a dedicated focus on tax controversy work against the Florida Department of Revenue. Since 1991, our firm has been assisting company in virtually all industries to get a just and fair result when dealing with the Florida Department of Revenue. Whether your company has already received an audit notice or and you need to your policies and procedures to minimize the tax impact on your company, please contact our attorneys today by phone or email (see top of this page) for a free initial consultation.

Florida sales and use tax attorney; FL department of revenue defense; FL sales and use tax audit; FL sales and use tax audit defense; james sutton attorney

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's primary practice is Florida tax controversy, with an almost exclusive focus on Florida sales and use tax. Mr. Sutton worked for in the State and Local Tax department of one of the Big Five accounting firms 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 and at Boston University College of Law since 2014 teaching Sales and Use Tax. Mr. Sutton is a frequent speaker on Florida sales and use taxes for the FICPA, Lorman Education, NBI, and the Florida Society of Accountants. Mr. Sutton is also co-author of CCH's Sales and Use Tax Treatise. You can read more about Mr. Sutton in his firm bio.


FL TAX WARRANT ISSUED AGAINST THE FL SUPREME COURT, published February 10, 2012, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq.

TAXPAYER FORCED TO SIGN AWAY RIGHTS TO REMIT TAX?, published September 2, 2013, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq.

FLORIDA TAXPAYER BILL OF RIGHTS, published July 8, 2012, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq.

FL DOR USES "CALLZILLA" TO HARRASS TAXPAYERS, published July 28, 2013, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq.


[1] "Draconian" relates to Draco, a 7th-century B.C. Athenian statesman and lawmaker who implemented laws that prescribed extremely harsh punishment for almost every offense, quite often the death for even minor offenses.