New Effort to Collect Sales Tax Dollars

Updated: 02/15/2013 10:20 PM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough

Hundreds of businesses owe the state millions of dollars. 

That's why there's a new effort to collect those tax dollars. It's money for schools, roads, and public safety that's not making its way to the state, and it's money they get from you.

Each time Chandra Carter takes her daughter shopping for video games at the mall in Minnetonka, she knows going in that she has to pay sales tax on a retail purchase -- we all do.

Carter expects the business, Game Central Inc., to do the same. "I think it's about doing the right thing," she says.

She's floored to learn Game Central isn't paying it forward to the state of Minnesota and legally shouldn't be open, according to the Department of Revenue. They showed us a letter given to Game Central this month revoking its sales tax permit and license to operate. Robyn Dwyer with the Department of Revenue told us, "If a business continues to operate after revocation they can be subject to criminal and civil penalties."

A business owner can be fined $100 per day plus face felony charges. Nine businesses have been charged criminally since 2007. "It's violating the public trust," says Carter.

Game Central is one of 454 names outed on a delinquency list. As of Friday, Feb. 15, they owe a combined $100 million to Minnesota. Game Centrals' Owner Pete Trinh owes $78,000 in sales taxes from the last three years. On its website, Game Central says it has stores in four malls: Burnsville, Edina, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.

We stopped by the Ridgedale shop only to find the lights on and customers and workers in the store. This employee called the owner for us and relayed a message: the company is closed. 

We asked the employee, "Does the company look closed?" 

"No." 

"Are you working today?"

Yes I am."

"Are you open for business?"

"Yes."

Chandra Carter wonders, "I think they do a pretty good business; where's that money going?  Where's the sales tax money going?

The Department of Revenue relies heavily on tips from the public about businesses breaking the law. Calls to the Tax Fraud Tipline can remain anonymous: 651-297-5195 or 1-800-657-3500.