Businesses owe state $252.7 million |

Businesses owe state $252.7 million

by Geoff Dornan

A report presented to the Legislative Commission on Friday shows Nevada businesses and individual licensees owe the state at least $252.7 million.

The debts consist of unpaid taxes by businesses that have gone under, licenses and fees, penalties, fines and interest.

Most of the debt is being chased by revenue officers in the Department of Taxation, but Director Dino DiCianno told lawmakers he expects to have to write off 80 percent.

“A lot of that debt is extremely old, 10 to 15 years old, and the prospect of collecting that is unlikely.” he said.

Even though that number sounds huge, DiCianno said his department collects 98 percent of the taxes it is charged with bringing in for the state.

He said he expects to ask the Board of Examiners to write the uncollectable debt off the state’s books this year.

Predictably, most of that debt is in unpaid sales and use taxes – primarily owed by businesses that are in deep financial trouble or have already gone under – a total of $149.6 million.

Another $17.9 million is in unpaid Modified Business Taxes along with $4.5 million in insurance premium taxes owed.

The department is responsible for collecting more than a dozen different taxes.

The department with the best record for collecting taxes and fees owed the state is the Gaming Control Board. Of the $178.6 million owed by casino and slot operators in just the last quarter, gaming officials collected all but $8,877.

“Historically, we collect about 99.9 percent,” said control board spokesman Frank Streshley.

The reason is that gaming has what another analyst referred to as “the big hammer.” Casino licensees who don’t pay what they owe can be summarily put out of business by the control board.

The total back taxes owed gaming is just $1.8 million, and Streshley said $1.7 million of that is from one case of a failed operation more than five years ago.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is owed $10.5 million in unpaid taxes and fees – $4 million of it from just the last fiscal quarter. The biggest piece is in registration funds unpaid by a long list of vehicle owners – $5.3 million.

The Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation is owed just over $20 million – almost all of it in unemployment insurance premiums unpaid by failing or bankrupt businesses.

Agencies unable to collect taxes and fees turn those accounts over to the state controller’s office, which contracts with several private collection agencies.