Favorite

Make ’em pay 

A little media criticism: TV coverage of the state’s effort to make the Wild River Country water park in North Little Rock pay its taxes often seemed to focus more on whether people would have a place to splash next summer. This story was about money. Your money. The park didn’t remit its sales taxes for last summer’s high season. In 2003, legislation sponsored by Sen. Terry Smith of Hot Springs gave the state Finance and Administration Department more power to go after such tax scofflaws. Failure to pay sales taxes begins a notification process. After three months of non-payment, the state contacts the deadbeats and gives them one last chance. If they don’t pay, the businesses can be padlocked. The law took effect in July. By mid-November, the state was ready to move against the first group identified as being at least three months in arrears. There were 3,800 businesses owing tens of thousands of dollars, but by final warning time, all but about 40 had worked out deals with the state. It was impractical to move instantly against all 40. Why was Wild River singled out? Richard Weiss, the DF&A director, says only Wild River Country of the 40 had failed to respond to every single state attempt at contact. Its gate was padlocked, with TV cameras rolling. Guess what? The padlock soon brought the Canadian owner to town to work out a settlement. Weiss says coverage of that case also prompted deadbeats elsewhere in Arkansas to get with the state about working out payment plans. It is like child support. When deadbeat parents learn they can be sent to jail for nonpayment, it’s amazing how many come up with the overdue cash. Chronic deadbeats tend to be bad actors. The Wild River owner hadn’t paid $10,000 in property taxes or $11,000 in North Little Rock advertising and promotion taxes either. He thought it unfair that County Treasurer Debra Buckner showed up at his feel-good news conference to say, “Wait a minute buster, you owe me money, too.” Wild River deserves no sympathy from law-abiding citizens and no free publicity from TV stations for discount season ticket sales (beware, consumers). Retail operators such as Wild River collect nearly 10 percent on top of receipts in sales taxes and owe another percent or so on the value of their property each year in real estate taxes. The sales taxes are NOT the retailers’ money. It’s the government’s money and it is supposed to pass through to public services. Non-payment of taxes creates the illusion of a hefty profit margin, but it’s only an illusion. It sounds a lot like what an average Joe might consider theft – taking money for yourself that belongs to someone else. All of this is to say two things: 1) It’s good the state is getting tough. Millions are at issue every year. 2) The law could be improved. The state is prohibited by current law from revealing amounts owed by sales tax scofflaws. The law should be amended to allow that information to be made public, as it may be for delinquent property taxes and hamburger taxes. Fear of embarrassment can be a powerful incentive to do right. Some operators are without shame, of course.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
    • May 25, 2017
  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
    • May 18, 2017
  • French Hill's photo op

    The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a health care bill that only the blind, dumb or dishonest could call good for any but the wealthy. For its many flaws, it has been hailed as a ticket to congressional gains for the Democratic Party.
    • May 11, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Event Calendar

« »

May

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Not leaders

    As soon as I saw the Notre Dame graduates walking out of their own commencement ceremony as Vice President Mike Pence began to speak, I thought, "Oh no, here we go again."

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • Did anyone read Gene's column this week? So far no one has commented on it.

    • on May 28, 2017
  • Re: Not leaders

    • Cotton is the most dangerous person in politics.

    • on May 28, 2017
  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • To bow or not to bow? Is that it? Has the Island of Misfit Toys…

    • on May 28, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation