By law, restaurants collect a 4 percent food and beverage (“meals”) tax in Arlington on top of the 5 percent state sales tax. The meals tax is then to be remitted to the county. But some restaurants — especially restaurants experiencing financial difficulties — simply pocket the money and accrue a debt to the county.
Frustrated by weak enforcement measures, O’Leary is seeking the power to seize and shut down restaurants that continue to accrue large meals tax debts, with no end to the delinquency in sight.
“What we would like to do is get the power to close down restaurants that are going deeper and deeper into debt,” he told ARLnow.com. “What they’re doing is essentially criminal. You can’t charge people tax on their meals and keep it for yourself, no matter how pressing your problems are. That money belongs to the county.”
O’Leary said he has been meeting with members of Arlington’s delegation to Richmond and is hoping to get a law passed in the state legislature’s upcoming session.
The effort is an uphill battle, however; the Republican majority in the state legislature has been reluctant to pass tax-related bills, especially those sought by Arlington County. O’Leary says he plans to argue that the measure could benefit the state’s coffers. He says restaurants that aren’t paying their meals taxes might be skimping on their state sales taxes, too.
Part of the challenge of enforcing the meals tax is the nature of the restaurant business itself. The county can seize property from tax cheats, but restaurants often operate in rented spaces with rented furniture and rented kitchen equipment.
“There’s very little to actually confiscate,” O’Leary said.
Restaurant owners are also able to keep the tax man at bay by offloading their personal property to others. His proverbial white whale, chef and restaurateur Roberto Donna, managed to get away with pocketing some $140,000 in meals taxes — for awhile, at least — in part because most of his personal property, like his McLean mansion, was in his wife’s name. O’Leary took the extraordinary step of having Donna prosecuted, but he avoided jail time and is now paying off his debt at a rate of a mere $500 per month.
O’Leary said he even considered having Donna extradited back to Italy, but decided he’d rather have the famous chef make his paltry debt payments than no payments at all.
Should O’Leary get his way, sheriff’s deputies would be dispatched to a severely delinquent restaurant to post closure notices on the doors and change the locks, so restaurant owners aren’t able to remove any property.
“Nothing else seems to work,” he said. “What we really need to do is stop them from operating. That’s the only thing I can think of to solve the problem.”
Even if his lobbying efforts prove unsuccessful, though, O’Leary has another trick up his sleeve: public shaming.
This month, the treasurer’s office is sending a mailing to tax delinquent restaurants, warning the owners that their tax delinquencies will be publicized in the media and on the county’s web site should they not agree to a repayment plan. Should any restaurants continue to flout the tax laws, O’Leary says he hopes Arlington residents will take note and do as he does: not dine there.
Good Thursday evening, Arlington. Today we published 6 articles that were read a total of 7916 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today…
Plans to redevelop a local YMCA may have too many apartment units and not enough community benefits, county planners say. The YMCA is proposing to tear down its existing facility…
A 3 BD/2.5 BA condo that sold for $2,374,500 and a 1 BD/1 BA condo that sold for $145,000 are included in Most and Least Expensive.
A woman was groped, followed and pulled to the ground by an unknown suspect in the Lyon Park area, police say. The incident happened last night (Wednesday) around 5:30 p.m….
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Hello Everyone — You are invited to the final meeting of NAACP Arlington Branch NAACP for 2022
When: Dec 12, 2022, 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: 2022 General Membership Meeting — NAACP Arlington Branch
Register in advance for this webinar
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
7:00 pm Meeting Opens.
7:30 pm Installation
8:00 pm Presentation/Q&A; by Dave Schutz on Ranked Choice Voting
8:30 pm Final Remarks and Comments by Newly Elected Members
9:00 pm Meeting Adjourns
Installation Official Robert N. Barnette, Jr. President, Virginia State Conference NAACP The President of the Virginia State Conference NAACP will serve as the Installation Official and provide remarks for our newly elected officers at the general membership.
Join us as we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah! Enjoy delicious Latkes, hot cocoa, donuts and more!
Clarendon Menorah Lighting and Community Celebration
Experience the festival of lights!!
*Lighting of a giant 9 foot Menorah