Theft of State Funds
The Florida Legislature created a statutory scheme that requires businesses that sell tangible personal property or provide certain enumerated taxable services to collect sales tax. When the business collects the sale tax, the money is considered trust funds.
If the business collects the Florida sales tax from their customer, but then fails to remit the money to the State of Florida, then the person can be charged with a crime called the “theft of state funds.”
Section 212.15(2), Florida Statutes provides:
“Any person who, with intent to unlawfully deprive or defraud the state of its moneys or the use or benefit thereof, fails to remit taxes collected under this chapter is guilty of theft of state funds…”
Under Section 212.15(2), F.S., a person commits theft of state funds when he or she fails to remit taxes with the intent to unlawfully deprive or defraud the state of its money or the use or benefit thereof. The penalties for the crime depend on the value of the stolen revenue.
If the value of the stolen revenue is less than $300 (or $1,000 effective October 1, 2019), the offense is a second-degree misdemeanor. See Section 225.15(2)(a), F.S. If the value of the stolen revenue is $300 or more (or $1,000 or more effective October 1, 2019), but less than $20,000, the offense is a third-degree felony. See Section 225.15(2)(b), F.S.
Related charges include failing to keep records. In fact, Section 212.13, Florida Statutes, provides that the failure to keep books and records is a misdemeanor in Florida. The intentional destruction of records is charged as a felony. The prosecutor with the State of Florida might also seek to revoke your sales tax certificate or business license.
Attorney for Theft of State Funds in Tampa, FL
If you are being accused of the theft of state funds, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Our attorneys represent clients charged with a variety of felony and misdemeanor theft crimes including failing to send taxes or stealing tax revenue.
Our main office is located in downtown Tampa, FL, just a few blocks away from the courthouse. We also represent clients throughout the greater Tampa Bay area.
Our four attorneys also represent clients on related charges such as failing to keep records or intentionally destroying records. In fact, Section 212.13, Florida Statutes, provides that the failure to keep books and records is a misdemeanor in Florida. We also represent clients accused of the intentional destruction of records which is a felony.
Penalties for Theft of State Sales Tax Funds in Florida
Under Section 225.15(2), the penalties for the crime of theft of state funds depend on the value of the stolen revenue including:
- less than $1,000 – second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine;
- $1,000 to less than $20,000 – third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine;
- $20,000 to $100,000 – second-degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a $10,000 fine; and
- More than $100,000 – first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Although an audit will target the business, the theft charges are brought against the business owner individually. If you are accused of this crime, then you need a criminal defnese attorney.
These cases being with correspondence from the Florida Department of Revenue. If you are the target of a criminal investigation, you should NOT talk to the Florida Department of Revenue. Instead, hire an attorney to represent you during each stage of the investigation process. The crime charge requires proof beyond all reasonable doubt that there was an intent by the taxpayer to deprive or defraud.
To prove that the crime occurred, the investigator with the Department of Revenue might serve a subpoena for bank statements to show that the business owner collected the money and then failed to remit the money to the State of Florida. The investigator might also request the books and business records directly from the business owner.
This article was last updated on Friday, June 28, 2019.