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Miami-Dade Grand Jury Targets Dealers

February 15, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A report issued by a Miami-Dade County grand jury says that Florida’s Department of Revenue (DOR) should go after suspected tax cheats, including used-car dealers, in an effort to close a nearly $4 billion budget gap.

The 29-page report, issued last week by a grand jury convened by the Eleventh Circuit Court, compared the state’s current tax collection process to an “honor system” and singled out used-car dealerships, as well as convenience stores and other small businesses, as withholding sales taxes paid by customers and owed to the state.

“As amazing as it might seem,” the report states, “DOR says, ‘Tell us how much you collected and then pay us what you told us you collected. If you do not pay us what you told us you owe us, then we will use our collection specialists to pursue the delinquencies.’”

The report fell short of offering any proof of any withholding or determining what amount car dealers had failed to report or remit. Instead, the grand jury relied on the testimony of unnamed witnesses who told the panel that used-car dealers and convenience-store operators alone were responsible for “more than $2 million per month in uncollected and unreported taxes.”

As of press time, the report is being reviewed by DOR officials and the state’s attorney general. Either office may then determine to reexamine the state’s sales tax collection apparatus or seek to enforce the payment of unremitted taxes.

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