From an editorial published in the Winston-Salem Journal on Monday:
The General Assembly is in a tricky situation regarding unpaid taxes from approximately one-third of all liquor licensees.
If it follows the suggestion of the N.C. Department of Revenue and denies liquor license renewal for any bar, restaurant or store behind on taxes, it might drive those people out of business, costing jobs and other tax revenue.
If it doesn’t get tough with these businesses, however, the legislature will be sending the wrong signal.
In effect, by rejecting the department’s initiative, the legislature would be saying that paying one’s taxes is no big deal, just something to do when convenient.
WRAL News reports the department proposed legislation, fashioned after the state’s vehicle registration law, that says motorists cannot re-register their vehicles if they owe taxes on them. The Revenue Laws Study Commission gave the liquor license renewal bill a thumbs-up earlier this month, but it must still run the full gamut of the legislative process come May.
The department is right to get tough. These licensees owe the state $46 million in unpaid taxes. And as Revenue official Charlie Helms told reporters, “It’s simply not fair for one taxpayer who’s paying their taxes on a regular basis to have to subsidize the non-compliance of maybe their competitors.”
The legislature should make sure that delinquent licensees are given reasonable time to either pay in full or establish a payment schedule. The legislation should also guarantee that the payment schedule is guaranteed by business assets, just in case the licensee reneges.
Legislation should also specifically address future cases of delinquency and how failure to pay will be handled.
And while at it, legislators must ensure that the traditionally under-staffed Revenue department has enough workers to monitor these licensees. Revenue can’t enforce the law without adequate staff.
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