Officials find $5.6 million in unpaid taxes

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mississippi tax officials say Brookhaven entities owe as much as$5.6 million in various taxes, a sum that includes a localbusinessman who has been indicted on 32 counts of alleged taxevasion totaling an estimated $500,000 and dating back as far as2004.

District Attorney Dee Bates said Donny Wilson, 47, owner ofWilson Auto Sales at 410 Highway 51, allegedly committed 32 acts -related to 28 automobile sales -between June 2004 and July 2007.Each count could carry up to five years in prison if Wilson isconvicted, Bates said.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said Wilson was booked intoLincoln County Jail Wednesday and was released later on a $50,000bond.

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Wilson, when contacted at his dealership, said there is littlehe can say about the matter pre-trial.

“Everything’s being handled by the CPA and the attorneys. Otherthan that there’s not much I can say about it,” said Wilson, addingthat his dealership will remain open.

State Tax Commission Director of Communications Kathy Waterburysaid commission investigators in the Brookhaven district work manysimilar cases. She said there are hundreds of open cases in theBrookhaven district, bordering on thousands.

“In the last 18 months the Brookhaven district has assessed $5.6million in assessments and that is quite a few taxpayers. Those areadditional unreported taxes of $5.6 million, which would benefitobviously the municipality as well as the state,” she said. “Thereis a lot of activity in audit, and Brookhaven is one of our smallerdistricts.”

Waterbury said there are many steps to go through before theState Tax Commission files charges on someone for tax evasion.

“We have a lot of situations where we don’t file criminalcharges,” she said. “People make mistakes, and just because youmake a mistake doesn’t mean you’ll have criminal charges. On a highpercentage of our audits we never file criminal charges.”

Meanwhile, officials are not immediately sure if Wilson’salleged evasion was the cause of some glitches in the city’s salestax numbers in September and October.

According to Brookhaven’s September report, the city received acheck from the state Tax Commission for 574,985.44, an increase ofabout $170,000 over September 2007’s $404,870.83. The significantincrease raised eyebrows until Waterbury said at the time that itwas from a 37-month, more than half-million dollar audit, whichprocessed that month, and had not been paid.

A $103,444.97 adjustment amount was taken from the city’s salestax check the next month, dropping sales tax totals to $328,397.23for October. The amount would have been $431,842.20, had theadjustment not been needed to be made to make up for the one localbusiness that had an audit that had not been paid, tax commissionofficials said.

Waterbury said her office is unable to comment or ascertainwhether or not Wilson’s audit was the cause of the city’s sales taxissues in late 2008.

“Usually with these indictments they don’t give a lot of historybehind it and we can’t talk about it until it goes to court,” shesaid. “But I can say our auditors and criminal investigators didthe case and turned it over to the district attorney.”

Bates was also unable to say if there was a link in thecase.

“I’m not aware if that would be the same situation,” Batessaid.

Bates said Wilson’s next step will be to have an arraignmentbefore a circuit court judge. He said Wilson’s predicament is areminder to people to be sure to pay their taxes.

“It’s a necessity,” Bates said. “Paying taxes may not besomething we enjoy, but it gives us a lot of privileges.”

Bates said Wilson could be looking at as much as $1.8 million incivil penalties if he is convicted.