State wants to crack down on tax cheaters

June 7, 2012 6:51:24 PM PDT
It's called an underground economy - California taxpayers being robbed of billions of dollars every year. The underground economy is not fair to California's legitimate business and a new estimate suggests that the problem will only get worse if the state doesn't act.

A recent bust in Stockton on May 29 netted authorities half a million dollars worth of counterfeit goods.

Fake designer purses, Air Jordans, and a new line of NFL jerseys not yet legitimately for sale in the United States. Sellers rarely hand over the sales tax to the state. If it's smuggled cigarettes, the excise tax never makes it to state coffers.

Undercover stings find people working for cash under the table. The employer doesn't pay payroll or unemployment taxes and employees avoid having income taxes taken out.

"Taxpayers are being cheated and the government is being cheated," said a man at the hearing.

The California Franchise Tax Board believes $10 billion are owed to the state every year, but never paid, as a result of this underground economy.

"These are things we don't see. We can't necessarily measure. We're just taking bits and pieces of information, trying to paint a picture," said Scott Reed from the California Franchise Tax Board.

The Franchise tax board has 41 sworn officers; the Board of Equalization has 80 investigators statewide -- not nearly enough to battle $10 billion worth of illegal employment and goods.

"People that are involved in the underground economy are very creative at how they mask and hide that stuff," said Randy Silva, a California Board of Equalization investigator.

Considering California is in a constant state of budget deficits, those affected by spending cuts are upset by tax cheaters. $10 billion could help save some social services.

"If there's any kind of way we can get people out of the shadows and pay their fair share of taxes, that'll go a long way in solving our budget problems," said Doug Moore from United Domestic Workers.

A proposal to create a new Centralized Intelligence Partnership is getting bi-partisan support in the Legislature. By having multiple agency pool resources together, it could net the state $32 million a year.


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