Sales taxes not paid by Lake Charles hotel

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Officials with the Calcasieu Parish School Board Sales Tax Department will meet with officials of the Calcasieu District Attorney's office on Thursday to discuss possible criminal prosecution of business owners who flagrantly refuse to pay the sales tax collected from customers.

In March, the School Board Tax Department, which collects sales tax for all Calcasieu taxing bodies, succeeded in getting a court judgement against Emerald Hospitality doing business as La Quinta Inn and Suites of Lake Charles, located at 1320 M.L.K Highway 171 North. The judgement orders LaQuinta to pay $30,105 in unpaid sales and use taxes along with $17,132 in unpaid hotel occupancy taxes.

This week, Rufus Fruge, who is the director of the tax department, said they were taking steps to close the motel due to non-payment of taxes.  In the 11th hour, Fruge says they were notified by their attorney that Emerald Hospitality had filed for bankruptcy and was therefore protected from creditors, so the motel remains open.  Said Fruge, "On August 23rd we were prepared to go with law enforcement there to actually take possession of the keys and ask everyone to leave."

Fruge says they try to work with businesses that become delinquent but Fruge says some are flagrant. "They simply refuse to cooperate and fulfil their obligations."

Whether you are buying a burger or something for your home, you pay sales tax.  And Fruge explains, that sales tax revenue doesn't belong to the business that collects it.  The business is to turn over the money to various taxing entities to pay services ranging from salaries for police, firefighters and teachers to improving roads.

The Louisiana Secretary of State has revoked the charter of Emerald Hospitality doing business as LaQuinta Inn on Highway 171--for failure to file annual reports for three years in a row.

We went inside to ask the manager for a comment but she declined. We have been unsuccessful in our attempts to reach someone with LaQuinta's corporate office to see if they have any response.

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