Snyderville sales tax snafu should be taken more seriously
Ryan Summerlin April 16, 2013
An alert local resident recently noted that a business in an unincorporated area of the Snyderville Basin was inadvertently collecting sales taxes based on Park City’s rate rather than the county’s. When he passed his observation on to the city’s finance department the staff discovered those revenues were being funneled to the city rather than the county where they belonged. Furthermore, according to the state Tax Commission, more than 100 other businesses were also miscoding their sales-tax receipts.
Those inconsistencies should have been picked up by the county. At the very least, as soon as the problem was discovered, county officials should have taken immediate action to correct the issue. But, so far, county officials don’t seem to be taking the issue very seriously.
It is hard to tell how long those revenues have been leaking from county coffers into the city’s and, apparently, there is a state statute of limitations on how far back the county can reach for refunds on those misdirected funds. Ninety days, to be exact.
That is lost revenue the county sorely needed. Some have suggested the losses may have totaled as much as $500,000 a year. In the context of the county’s ongoing budget woes, that kind of oversight is cause for alarm.
The county’s reaction to the situation has been equally disturbing. Both the county manager and a county accountant have tried to minimize the issue, saying the money didn’t add up to a significant amount.
We beg to differ.
In the past three years, the county has had to ask voters to approve a $1.6 million withdrawal from its savings account to cover an unanticipated shortfall. It has cut staff in almost every department and has raised taxes just to maintain current service levels. Despite those measures, the county’s animal control department has been gutted, building inspector and planning positions have been left unfilled and the sheriff’s department recently said it could no longer respond to unverified burglar alarms due to staff constraints.
Against that backdrop, to us, $500,000 sounds like a lot of money. In fact, a fraction of that amount would be worth screaming about.
Before Summit County officials come back to their constituents with another request for a tax increase, they had better be able to convince them they are properly accounting for the revenues they should already be collecting.