Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Send In the Clowns

Perhaps you heard about The Filling Station's busy Saturday night, you can check out the WFAA news report on it here. Around midnight, state Comptroller's and TABC agents paid the establishment a visit to claim cash from the till for back taxes. Problem was, they didn't owe any. The $500-plus dollars seized is to be returned to the business, because they were current on their tax bill.

Going after a business that doesn't pay it's taxes is a necessary thing if we rely on government services that are paid by those taxes. I like having police, fire, clean water, public schools, but it's a struggle to fund these services when the burden becomes greater on those who pay taxes because of those who don't. And it's also a greater burden on those who pay their taxes when government resources are used in a manner that is wasteful and unnecessary, like in the case of this "raid".

I've heard of the Comptroller's office visiting businesses to claim cash, but never accompanied by the TABC before, because the TABC does not collect taxes. So I shot Janet Ivy of Ivy Law Firm and TABS on Texas liquor licensing blog an email asking why the doubling up on forces?
Yes, these raids are happening all over Texas. Usually it's just the Comptroller but if the place has written a 'hot check' then the TABC (instead of the police) get involved and it usually is a big commotion. It is another issue for the legislature to straighten out and put boundaries on them both.

OK, so maybe they made a mistake in a previous month, they file taxes electronically so all payments must be made on the computer - including penalties and interest (the state sends you a nasty letter if you mail a regular check). It would seem if there was a past due amount it would be reflected on their electronic account. Also, the state has every filer's email address, why not send a daily email notice, that would provide a paper trail that the snail mail system lacks. Regardless, it appears that the mistake made was corrected by the owner by paying the amount due.

So it sounds like the TABC has a new enforcement role assisting the Comptroller in seizures, since they are licensed with guns unlike Comptroller agents. Just what the state and our industry needs - a brute squad.

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