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Sales Tax Commission gets more aggressive

As reported recently, sales tax revenue for the city of Minden has increased significantly from the same time last year. However, Webster Parish is missing out on a portion of its sales tax revenue due to delinquent business taxpayers.

Customers pay Webster Parish sales tax at each business in the parish and businesses that deliver to or perform a taxable service in the parish. Each of these businesses is required to remit all sales tax collected in the previous month to the parish and state by day 20 of the next month. For example, sales tax remissions for March will be due this Friday, April 20.

For one reason or another, some businesses have not remitted the sales tax due to Webster Parish. Cyndy Herrington, an administrator for the Webster Parish Sales and Use Tax Commission, said delinquent accounts are not a new problem.

“This has always been an issue,” she said. “It has become more public in the last couple of years. We are also taking more aggressive measures to collect the tax.”

Herrington said out of a total of just under 6,000 accounts, the current delinquency rate is around five percent, or just short of 300 businesses.

Penalty and interest rates accrue on delinquent accounts. The parish mails a “failure to file” notice to delinquent taxpayers each month. After several steps are taken to obtain a response from the business, the parish can file suit and order the business to close.

“We give the taxpayer ample opportunity to remit the tax due,” Herrington said. “We are willing to work out a payment agreement in order for the business to remain open, and if they fail to follow through with that, we have no choice but to have the court order them to close.”

According to the Louisiana Revised Statute 47:337.82, these delinquent businesses could “be fined not more than ten thousand dollars or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than five years, or both.” Herrington said the parish has been aware of this statue, but until now it has not been used as part of collection procedures.

“Recently, I have been in discussion with the local sheriff’s office to work together in the enforcement of collections,” she said. “Sales tax that has been collected and not remitted is theft, and we are doing everything in our ‘toolbox’ to collect. A business should not be surprised if a local sheriff’s deputy shows up at their door.”

Herrington said in the end, it is much less costly for a business to pay the tax they have collected.

“This will save them an excessive amount of penalties and fees and potentially having to close their business,” she said.”

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