Downtown Bellevue flower shop co-owner pleads guilty to stealing sales tax

The owner of a Bellevue flower and gift shop was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and ordered to pay a total of $97,858 to the state for stealing sales tax.

Olivia Payment, co-owner of Flowers for the People and Flowers for the Peeps, pleaded guilty Jan. 20 in King County Superior Court to one count of unlawful debt collection, a Class C felony. was originally charged with two counts of first-degree robbery, but the state later amended those charges.

Payment and her brother operated a flower and gift shop in downtown Bellevue from 2015 to 2018. Olivia Payment had not filed a tax return for several years, prompting the Department of Revenue to audit the ‘business. The audit showed that Olivia Payment failed to file taxes and collected sales tax from customers, but did not send it to the state as required.

Olivia Payment continued to collect and retain sales tax after agreeing to refund it to the state. After Payment failed to send in the sales tax, the state revoked the company’s license in 2018. Payments continued to operate the business from their home as Flowers For The Peeps LLC. after the city center closes.

Further investigation by the state attorney general’s office revealed that Olivia Payment shifted income and collected sales tax between multiple private and commercial accounts to evade auditors. The state attorney general’s office prosecuted the case on behalf of the IRS.

Collecting but not remitting sales tax is illegal under Washington State law. Businesses that sell retail goods and services in Washington are required to collect sales tax from customers and send it to the state.

According to the Washington State Department of Revenue, retail sales tax is the state’s largest source of revenue and funds vital services that benefit Washington’s residents and economy, including schools, health care, etc.

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