The owner of a Bellevue flower and gift shop has been 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 on Jan. 20 in King County Superior Court to one count of Unlawful Collection of Debt, a Class C felony. Payment was originally charged with two counts of theft in the first degree, 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 failed to file tax returns for several years, prompting the Department of Revenue to audit the business. The audit showed that Olivia Payment had not filed tax returns and had been collecting sales tax from customers but was not sending it to the state as required.
Olivia Payment continued to collect and keep the sales tax after agreeing to pay it back to the state. After Payment did not send the sales tax, the state revoked the business’ license in 2018. The Payments continued to operate the business out of their house as Flowers For The Peeps LLC. after the downtown location was closed.
Further investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office revealed that Olivia Payment had moved revenue and the collected sales tax between several private and business accounts to elude auditors. The state Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case on behalf of Revenue.
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 largest source of state revenue and funds vital services that benefit Washington’s residents and economy, including schools, health care, and more.