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Going out of business sale draws attention

By ANNE LINDBERG
Published February 28, 2007


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Antique mall owner Kathy Schuckert made a political statement when she decided to close her business and post this sign: Gov. Crist. Too late. Closing. Insurance. Taxes.

But it wasn't too long before the county was making a statement of its own. A county tax collector visited Schuckert to inform her that she had neglected to get a "going out of business permit."

"I said, 'Are you kidding?' He said, 'No,' " Schuckert said.

"I never heard of such a thing before. ... Everybody's closing up because nobody can stay here because of the taxes and insurance, then they tax you for going out of business," she said.

"It's outrageous."

Schuckert's incredulity is a normal reaction among business owners, said Betty Gramley, a tax manager in the Pinellas County Tax Collector's Office.

But the county is not the villain, Gramley said, it is only carrying out the mandates of a state law designed to protect consumers against fraudulent sales.

State law requires business owners who advertise going out of business sales, as Schuckert did, to buy a $50 cash permit. The law also says stores must have going-out-of-business permits if they are using signs that say such things as "liquidation," "last days," "lease expires," "bankruptcy," or "insolvency."

Retailers also are required to:

- Give the tax collector a list of inventory and items already on order. That way the tax collector can make sure the inventory is really declining and ensure the appropriate taxes are paid.

- Provide a copy of the advertisements.

- Surrender any occupational license issued by a city.

The permits are good for 60 days and failure to comply is a second degree misdemeanor.

Although the permit and inventory are required by state law, the tax collector also watches out for Pinellas County's interests while visiting. If a business has unpaid taxes, the collector makes sure those are brought current.

That was not the case with Schuckert, who was current on her taxes, and also paid the $50 permit fee.

The county issues few going-out-of-business permits, Gramley said. Schuckert's Vintage Antiques Fine Replications & Estate Antique Mall is the first this year.

The county issued four such permits in 2006. Another three businesses that had permits issued in 2005 completed their sales in 2006.

However, it's a mistake, Gramley said, to assume that no businesses are closing because so few permits are issued.

Not all businesses are required to obtain one. Car dealers, for example, are exempt. And if no sale is held, no permit is required.

Information from Times files was used in this report.

What to do

It's the law

Call the Pinellas County Tax Collector, 562-3262. Or visit the Web site, www.taxcollect.com and click on "going out of business."

[Last modified February 27, 2007, 20:38:04]


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