Scofflaw rolls a litany of woe

If you went looking for tales of business gone wrong, you could hardly pick a better starting point than the new list of the Top 250 sales tax debtors this year from the California State Board of Equalization.

Joseph Boudames, for example, owes more than $3.6 million in unpaid sales taxes, penalties and interest listed to both himself, at a San Mateo address, and for Boudames Business Machines Inc. of San Francisco.

He’s on the record as losing a court appeal of two counts of failure to pay sales taxes totaling $160,000 and one count of trying to bribe the state auditor who assessed the unpaid tax.

Like many on the list, Boudames could not be reached for comment.

Then there’s Ramirez Developers Inc., which allegedly owes more than $1.28 million and is facing an ongoing suit from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office on various allegations. Add Club Ante in San Mateo, which has accumulated more than $710,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties since closing in 2004.

The new list aims to recoup unpaid sales taxes, which totaled around $2 billion in the 2005-06 fiscal year alone, Board of Equalization spokeswoman Anita Gore said.

“This money goes for state and local governments,” Gore said. “We have to date collected $2.6 million through this effort … If they enter into an agreement to pay us, their name will be removed from the list.”

The longer businesses take to pay, the higher charges mount, with an 11 percent noncompounding interest rate plus a 10 percent penalty on the principal every month.

“That’s absolutely out of proportion to whatever I really owed,” said Eliezer Shaul of San Francisco’s now-defunct Sterling Heights International, a jewelry business on the list. “The original amount was about $100,000.”

He erred by not charging sales tax on wholesale orders, he said.

Stephen Squires, a San Mateo antique casino-machine rental businessman whose machines were seized in 2006, said his former businesses owed sales tax on the rentals, though tax was paid on the machines’ eventual sale. He criticized the board as unwilling to negotiate.

“They won’t talk about it,” Squires said. “They can do most anything they want to do.”

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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