A recent news story is a great reminder about our jobs as stewards of state and local government money. One bar owner in Portland was arrested by special agents in her home on Monday for almost $50,000 in unpaid sales tax. Turns out she didn’t report sales tax to the state of Oregon for three years on nearly half a million dollars worth of taxable revenue. She was arrested and charged with 36 “Class E felony counts of sales tax evasion and one Class C felony count of theft of property over $10,000.” Before you worry about this sort of thing happening to you, if you’re attempting to comply with sales tax and doing sales tax compliance in good faith, it’s unlikely that you’ll be arrested for sales tax evasion. That being said, doing everything in your power to ensure your sales tax is always right as a business owner is part of the job.
That includes even if you’ve assigned that task to an employee or accounting firm. After all, it’s likely that you’ll be held personally responsible if something goes terribly wrong. When we collect sales tax, it’s good to remember that the money doesn’t belong to us—it’s the property of the state and local entities that the money is collected on behalf of. We’re simply stewards of that money until it reaches the right hands. If you think of it this way, your business is acting on behalf of the state to help improve the lives of those who live in that state. Sales tax money often goes to state budgets for services like roadway maintenance and vital programs that help citizens live their lives better. When your business correctly collects sales tax and sends it to the right place, you’re helping the community where you do business be better.
It’s a strange way to think of our responsibilities as businesses but it’s pretty enlightening. Are you being a good steward of your customers’ community?