Letter to the editor: Town of Tonawanda sales tax trouble
Vishion’s interest in this matter was rekindled in July when he was invited to meet with Town Supervisor Anthony Caruana. When they met in August, Vishion questioned the supervisor about the increased revenue and benefit the town has enjoyed since taking over the concessions. Caruana stated that he did not have any figures.
Vishion questioned the supervisor as to the projected revenue the town was expecting, yet Caruana still could not produce those figures, stating he and the Town Board approved the move to take over concessions based on what they were told by Youth, Parks and Recreation Director Dan Wiles. He also confirmed there was no formal analysis or financial forecasts given by Wiles.
Vishion then began to investigate what type of revenue, if any, the town has seen in its concession business. Vishion tried to request and review the town’s state sales tax filings, which would document the revenue. However, Vishion discovered from both the town clerk and the town comptroller’s offices that the town is out of compliance by not properly certifying each retail location, and that they have yet to file sales tax for the concession operation this year. Vishion further learned, via the comptroller’s office, that the town has never filed sales tax on any of their other concession and retail operations prior to this year.
A municipality, according to the official New York State sales tax guide, is required to collect and file sales tax. (Publication 843 (12/09)) “Generally, sales by New York governmental entities of tangible personal property or services that are ordinarily sold by private persons are subject to sales tax.” If a municipality decides to enter into a private sector-type business and compete with private sector businesses, they should be held to the same rules and regulations as a private business. If a municipality collects sales tax and does not remit those taxes, or fails to collect the proper sales tax for the goods and services they provide, that is fraud.
This is the same Parks and Recreation Department that was recently the subject of an unprecedented New York State Police investigation regarding the mismanagement of town-owned property.
This investigation resulted in a report being filed with the Erie County District Attorney’s office. Based on Vishion’s discovery and his knowledge of past questionable business and record keeping practices by this department, he is requesting a full investigation of the town’s financial records.
If any wrongdoing is discovered, Vishion believes, taxpayers deserve accountability and those responsible for any malfeasance should be dealt with swiftly.
“If the Town of Tonawanda whishes to compete with private business, they should be held accountable to the rules and regulations that govern similar businesses,” Vishion said.