Officials with the Webster Parish Sales and Use Tax Commission say they hope the repeat finding of enforcing procedures regarding delinquent taxes will not be in their 2017 audit.
Recently released, their audit showed the commission is not enforcing their policies in collecting delinquent sales taxes or their occupational licenses taxes. Administrator Cyndy Herrington said they have been working diligently this year to make sure those sales taxes are collected.
“We’ve had an issue with our delinquent collections and we are implementing new procedures to get that handled more efficiently,” she said. “We were not able to get it all done by the end of the year. However, we have new software that is helping us get it done more efficiently, and we’ve done a lot this year.”
She said they have been working more aggressively to get delinquent taxes paid through sending out demand letters in a more timely fashion as well as filing suit against those who still have not paid.
For several years, the office has been lax on collecting taxes, and the finding goes back to 2013, according to the audit report. The report goes on to say they tested several “vendors,” which showed “an increase in documents indicating the Commission’s attempt to follow procedure in 2017.”
However, 12 of the 20 vendors selected showed instances “where files were not maintained on delinquent filers with adequate documentation, instances where the collection process or agreements were set up for prior year delinquencies which are not being enforced to obtain payment of file paperwork with an attorney to obtain judgment for unpaid taxes or close business, instances where letters were sent with no deadline to specify date to file returns and remit taxes and no liens filed, and instances where no letters were sent to delinquent filers and no liens were filed.”
In the management’s response, Herrington wrote numerous accounts were closed out and were timely and legally addressed. She went on to say, “the employee responsible for delinquent collections was reprimanded and issued a deadline to begin filing suits on delinquent accounts, updating liens and closing out delinquent accounts that are no longer in business.”
They now have a written procedure in place to follow when taxes are not paid in a timely manner, she said.
“When they completed the audit last year, we just had not done in the previous year what we needed to do, even though we’d started during the year; by that time, the auditors still didn’t feel we’d done enough to close out that finding,” she said. “We have made tremendous efforts this year. We’ve filed suits in the courts if they don’t pay their taxes; we’ve filed liens. We’re doing so much more this year than we have in previous years.”
With their work this year, their intention is for this repeat finding to be cleared up by the time the 2017 audit is complete.
“They just want to see that we’re doing what I said – filing demand letters, filing liens and filing suits,” she said. “If the taxpayer does not pay, they could be forced to close their business. Hopefully this year, they will see what we’ve done.”