How Florida Sales Tax Works
Most states impose a sales tax where goods or services are sold. The seller of the goods collects the tax and reports those taxes to the state. The sales tax is typically a percentage of the purchase price. In Florida, the general state tax rate is 6 percent of the purchase price. If you run a business in Florida and you collect sales tax from your customers, you are required to pay those taxes to the government. The Florida Department of Revenue has been steadily cracking down on business owners who fail to pay up these sales taxes. If you are business owner in Florida who has been contacted by an investigator with the DOR, then, you may be at risk of facing criminal tax evasion charges.
A Florida DOR investigator is essentially like a law enforcement officer who will try to collect sufficient evidence to have you indicted on tax evasion or tax fraud charges. If you have an active investigation going on against you, that means you are being suspected of committing a crime. So at this stage, it would be in your best interest not to talk to the investigator and contacting an experienced Florida tax lawyer who can help protect your rights. Anything you tell investigators can and most probably will be used against you.
What Constitutes a Sales Tax Crime in Florida?
There are a number of actions that could result in criminal sales tax charges. Sales tax fraud could include failure to file taxes, not reporting accurate sales numbers, failure to pay taxes that are owed, filing fraudulent or inaccurate tax returns, assisting someone else file fraudulent returns and making fraudulent claims on sales tax returns.
If the state’s Department of Revenue determines that your business has deliberately underreported or underpaid sales taxes, you could face criminal prosecution. Some of the signs investigators look for when they look into sales tax crimes include lack of sales receipts, not ringing up purchases on a cash register, and not reporting sales taxes collected. Sometimes, employees may blow the whistle on their employer. A number of state tax agencies, including Florida’s own DOR, have a hotline where the public can report suspected sales tax evasion. Florida even has a rewards program.
Consequences and Penalties
In Florida, the charges you face for sales tax crimes could depend on the amount of taxes you allegedly failed to pay. Failing to pay sales taxes is often charged as a felony. If the amount of taxes owed is between $301 and $20,000, you could face a third degree felony, up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines. If the amount is between $20,001 and $100,000, you could be charged with a second-degree felony, up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If the amount is more than $100,000, you could face a first-degree felony charge, up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
As you can see, the consequences and penalties of a conviction on these charges can be serious and life-changing. You need to get an Experienced Florida Tax Lawyer on your side early on in the process. That way you’ll be able to work out a payment plan with the DOR so the investigation can be closed even before charges are filed against you. Call us today to find out how we can help you.