Sales tax office cracking down on unregistered businesses

The Webster Parish Sales and Use Tax Commission is cracking down on businesses they say have not registered to pay sales taxes in the parish.

Officials say they have discovered multiple businesses through social media that have not paid any sales taxes to the commission.

“With the proliferation of social media, we are discovering businesses advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that never registered with us and have never paid a dime in sales tax,” Auditor Johnny Johnson said. “Please be assured that this is against the law and that we are actively looking for non-registered businesses.”

The office isn’t sure how much sales tax the parish is missing out on, but said these funds are used for things such as teacher salaries and bonuses, public safety salaries, roads, clean drinking water, sanitation and recreation.

“When the correct sales tax isn’t paid to our office, it affects us all in some way or another,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t come out of the businesses pocket, it is paid by the consumer.”

Louisiana law requires any business to register with the sales and use tax office and collect and pay sales tax on the sale of any tangible property.

Johnson said sales tax is due on anything from a digital photograph to baked goods to labor performed on an automobile.

“We have had businesses which have asserted that they were not actually in business because they didn’t make any money. Others have stated that their business is just a hobby. None of these matters for sales tax purposes,” he said. “It makes no difference if you make a profit or not, or whether you call it a hobby or not, or if you work out of your home or in a retail establishment, you must charge sales tax on the amount for which you sell your product, as long as it isn’t an occasional sale like a garage sale.”

According to Louisiana law, a business is any activity engaged in by any person with the object of gain, benefit, or advantage, either direct or indirect.

Any business that has not been collecting and paying sales tax could be held responsible for paying past sales tax, penalties and interests and could face a lien against their property, Johnson said.

Businesses not registered can online at www.laota.com, or print a form from the commission’s website at www.webstersalestax.org. Questions can be answered by calling 377-8948.

Johnson said the office is taking an aggressive approach to tracking down businesses not in compliance.

“We may not find out about your business today, tomorrow, next week, or even next year, but we will find out about it
eventually,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be better in the long run to come forward now?”

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