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Gov. says Greenbrier sales tax debt being paid

Gov. Jim Justice said the Greenbrier Hotel, owned by his family, is on a payment plan to straighten out liens with the West Virginia tax department, run by his administration.

“There are two, you know, payment plans with the tax department and they’re completely current. All’s good in the neighborhood there. And the other thing is, any taxes due — any kind of other taxes due, and everything — are all paid,” Justice said Tuesday on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

More than two months ago, Feb. 5, the state tax department filed seven liens for unpaid sales taxes amounting to $3.5 million owed by The Greenbrier Hotel Corp., the ownership group for the historic West Virginia resort.

The amounts due to the state had built up over a period of months from late last June to November.

Records online with Greenbrier County show that one lien has been released. That one amounting to $388,540 dates to last June 30. The lien release occurred near the beginning of this month.

But the same records show that a new lien has been added into the bucket. It is for $518,006.37 and reflects sales taxes that were supposed to be paid by Dec. 21.

That date is later than the others in the batch of liens. So the oldest lien of the bunch has been released, and a new lien for the next date range that sales taxes would have been due has been laid down.

Merchants collect sales taxes from customers but that’s never their money. It’s the customer’s money flowing to the government with the merchant in a middle role to pass those collections — or remit them — on to the tax official.

A tax lien is a legal claim against the assets of a person or business who fails to pay taxes owed.

Vendors such as The Greenbrier Hotel are supposed to impose sales taxes at the time of purchase. West Virginia sales taxes are required to be filed and remitted monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on an assigned filing frequency.

Justice did not get into the particular liens — including the one added or the one subtracted — during his radio appearance. When he was previously asked about the liens during state news briefings, the governor twice said he didn’t have details about the debt.

He said, “I told everybody repeatedly, over and over, if there’s an obligation we take care of it. We don’t need to spend time worrying about what’s going on with Jim Justice’s businesses.” He continued by saying, “Everything’s current, and everything’s moving right straight ahead.”

Justice was asked to clarify whether the sales taxes were under a payment plan to clear out the obligation over time, or whether the debt has already been paid.

“It’s both,” he said. “There are payment plans in place, and those payments have been made and they’re current. And in addition to that any subsequent taxes that have come up have been paid and have been taken care of.”

Justice said he is not looped in on why the sales taxes built up in the first place at The Greenbrier.

“I’ve got my son and daughter and my son-in-law and a lot of really qualified people that are taking care of that. From time to time, I guess they have a bump in the road, and everything, and they take care of it,” he said. “But it’s nothing more than a bump in the road.”