Wednesday, June 24, 2009
7 News Investigations: County Crackdown
Hundreds of businesses in Broward that aren't paying their taxes are getting a wakeup call. The message is clear: Pay up or else. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with the exclusive.
WSVN -- It was a busy morning at the Bonaventure Country Club and next door a golf tournament was about to begin.
Ron Cacciatore: "I'm assisting revenue enforcement and I have to post you for a delinquent tax bill."
It's the kind of news no business wants to hear because not only is there the issue of money owed, there's the embarrassment of having a notice posted on your front door that spells out just how much you owe.
In this case, $23,000 for the golf course and $15,000 for the country club.
Melissa Heller: "It's not a sign that business owners want to have at their door."
Broward County is out to collect close to three million dollars in back taxes owed by businesses. In some cases, companies owe a few thousand dollars. In others, it's tens of thousands of dollars.
Melissa Heller: "We keep only 27 cents of each dollar collected and the additional funds the remaining of that each dollar goes to other taxing authorities including our cities and towns and school board."
Carmel Cafiero: "How much on this one?"
Ron Cacciatore: "$1,889.22."
We were there as tax notices were glued to the front doors of business after business by Ron Cacciatore. He's with Broward's Property Appraiser's Enforcement Division.
The notices went up on everything from retail businesses to doctors and lawyers' offices. Within the next several days, the county plans to go after more than 500 businesses.
Ron Cacciatore: "I want to see what assets they have in the country club will you walk me around?"
Cacciatore also documented the property each business owns. If bills are not paid the county says it will seize these assets and sell them to pay the back taxes, and although the sweep is just starting, it is having an impact.
Melissa Heller: "We've already had a good number of folks come to us to make payment. In fact, $60,000 already from the first day of posting, so were are finding it very effective."
Among those paying Bonaventure it sent payment within hours of the tax notices being put on its doors and now both the country club and the golf course are in good standing with the county.
Ron Cacciatore: "Hi, are you the manager?"
But not every stop went smoothly. Cacciatore had a notice for the new auto toy store at 940 South Federal Highway in Pompano Beach, but it is closed. He found its cars down the street at a boat business.
Ron Cacciatore: "But I understand when I talked to your people they said they combined everything here?"
This man who did not identify himself asked us to leave.
Man: "Can you stop filming please? Thank you."
And when Cacciatore posted the notice on the door he says the man tore it down.
Ron Cacciatore: "It's a misdemeanor by the way to tear that off."
It says right on the notice It's against the law to take it down.
Ron Cacciatore: "I'm going to report it to revenue and they can take whatever action they want to."
Later, the operations manager called us to say the man who kicked us off the property and tore off the notice does not represent his company and that the back taxes have nothing to do with the boat business. He says the vehicles are being stored temporarily for a leasing company.
Meanwhile, the next day the county says the new auto toy store paid in full.
Carmel Cafiero: "Business that get caught in this sweep should be warned about removing those notices no matter how embarrassing. The county says it will be back with police if a sign is removed. The penalty, up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine."