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Business Forced to Close Due to Audit

Updated: Friday, February 21 2014, 11:24 AM CST

long-time Springfield business is closing its doors after its owners
say they can no longer jump through the state's mandated red tape.

has been a treasure trove for teachers since it opened in 1998. Owners
Stephen Briggs and Susan Clause stock racks full of classroom supplies.

both retired teachers and we wanted to supply educational materials for
private and public schools. Teachers from a hundred miles around would
drive to Springfield to shop at our store," Briggs said.

It was five years ago when the couple got word of their first audit.

"He found a couple of things, just obscure things," Clause said.

the couple wasn't paying sales tax on items they donated to local
schools and churches, for example. But Briggs and Clause say they took
care of it. They paid the taxes and paid the penalties. Come November--
another audit.

"It's a nightmare. And it's a nightmare for the people on the other end. It's burdensome," Clause said

Illinois Department of Revenue told the couple individuals cannot be
exempt from sales tax, only non profit organizations can. So customers
need to prove they are, and were, buying supplies for a non-profit and
not their own personal use. They were told the state-issued tax
exemption form isn't enough proof and all the missing sales tax from the
past few years needs to be paid.

"The state gave them a
tax exempt letter, they are using it and now somebody's gotta pay the
tax on the purchase? And it's gotta be the retailer? I think it could be
thousands and dollars and then it could be penalties and interest on
top of that," Clause said.

The couple is trying to put
together records of their sales but that's difficult when some of them
were paid in cash. They say they can't afford an attorney to fight the
matter, and because of the amount they now owe in back taxes, they have
to close.

"And I truly believe that we got audited
because we opened a new business under the same business umbrella. So
when we filed our sales tax return our revenues went way up but our
sales tax didn't because we're not selling taxable items over there,"
Clause said.

The couple opened Ergadoozy, a creative
play center, in September and they say business there is good. While the
couple admits running Ergadoozy is easier money, they insist the audit
is the reason Ergadoo is going out of business. Briggs and Clause say
the ones who are losing with Ergadoo closing are teachers, who will now
have to drive miles to shop at a similar store, and the state of
Illinois, which will not be collecting as much sales tax now that the
local business is shutting down.

"The state wanted more revenue. Now they're going to get less," Briggs said.

An Illinois Department of Revenue spokesperson would not comment on this story because of the ongoing audit.

Business Forced to Close Due to Audit

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