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March 22, 2002

Bay Area Service Station Owners Arrested in $28,000 Sales Tax Theft Case

The owners of three Tampa Bay area service stations have been arrested on charges of stealing sales taxes that they collected from customers but never paid to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced. The service station owners also have been arrested on charges of failing to file tax returns as required by law.

Denise M. Anderson, 39, and Thomas A. Anderson, 36, of Tampa, turned themselves in Friday to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department to face a felony charge of tax theft and three felony charges of failure to file tax returns as required by law. If convicted, they face up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. The Andersons operated three service stations in Oldsmar and Tampa. One of the businesses formerly operated in Dover but since has relocated to Mt. Vernon Street in Oldsmar. Bond was set at $6,500 each.

According to a Revenue Department investigation of the business's records, the Andersons routinely collected sales tax on sales made at their business in 1999, 2000 and 2001. However, during various periods between December 1999 and January 2001, the Andersons failed to file sales tax returns or send in $28,986.11 in tax collections as required by law. By state law, sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment it is collected from the customer, and businesses are required to keep sales tax collections separate from other business funds and to send the tax receipts in to the state on a regular basis. Revenue Department staffers made repeated attempts to collect back taxes from the couple. But they failed to comply with the law. Revenue investigators found that the Andersons used the tax collections for business use, thus keeping their business active.

"To be fair, tax law must apply fairly and uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Businesses that fail to comply with tax law are stealing money that the public pays to support vital services such as education and law enforcement. They also are stealing an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest businesspeople. The Department cannot and will not allow this to occur."

If you have information about tax theft, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Clearwater at 727-524-4369.