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January 29, 2002

Franklin County Restaurant Owner Arrested On Tax Related Charge

The operator of an Eastpoint restaurant faces charges of failing to file tax returns and refusing to comply with state agents orders to open business records for inspections, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Carolyn Koch, 35, of Eastpoint, turned herself in to Franklin County authorities Monday to face felony charges of failure to file tax returns as required by law and failure to produce business records for inspection as required by law. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Ms. Koch operated an Eastpoint restaurant called "Carolyns Gathering Place."

According to Revenue Department investigators, Ms. Koch had operated her restaurant at 35 Island Drive in Eastpoint since November 1996. According to customers, employees and Ms. Koch, customers were charged sales tax on their bills for meals prepared by the restaurant. However, Revenue Department tax records indicated that no tax was sent in to the state and no tax returns had been filed for the business between February 1997 and September 2001. Revenue investigators charged that Ms. Koch had failed to file tax returns despite repeated attempts by Revenue staffers to get her to comply with state tax law.

Revenue Department investigators attempted to review business records at the restaurant in the course of determining whether tax law had been complied with. State law requires that businesses maintain records and make them available to the Department of Revenue for review. However, one day after a Revenue Department investigator asked for access to records, Ms. Koch closed her restaurant and moved all of her equipment out of the building where the restaurant had been located, investigators charged.

"To be fair, tax law must apply fairly and uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Businesses that fail to comply with tax law are stealing money that the public pays to support vital services such as education and law enforcement. They also are stealing an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest businesspeople. The Department cannot and will not allow this to occur."

If you have information about tax theft, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Tallahassee at 850-922-2666.