WDBJ7 report spurs businesses to pay meals taxes owed to Roanoke City

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - Last month WDBJ7 reported that a number of Roanoke City eateries owe thousands of dollars in meals tax to the city. Our report spurred some of those businesses to pay up what they owe.

We found out that dozens of Roanoke City eateries are behind on paying their prepared food and beverage tax and some are being prosecuted for it.
But after our story aired, the treasurer reported that people started paying up.

"We're getting right on it."

That's what Roanoke City Treasurer Evelyn Powers told WDBJ7 last month after documents we found in the Roanoke City courthouse showed at least one local business was being prosecuted for not paying meals tax.

"It is the law," Powers said about the collection of meals tax.

We checked in with Powers who said as of mid-January, these eateries owed the city nearly several hundred thousand in delinquent payments.

"You know,we were fair," Powers said Tuesday. "We gave people the opportunity to work with us. I think now they're seeing how serious we are in collecting this money."

Her staff said the day after the WDBJ7 report aired, their phones began to ring more than usual. Five business owners came in and payed off their accounts, and those who called wanted to know what to do next.

Even inactive account holders, those with eateries now out of business, wanted to pay up.

"It was you know, 'We saw this on TV we want to make sure that we don't get in that position,'" said Terra Heavner of the reaction she heard from citizens. "'What can we do you know what can we do to avoid that.'"

We sent an information request to the city asking about delinquent accounts. Officials said as of February 11th, 63 of the city's eateries were considered delinquent on payments. One inactive account was also delinquent. The city would not tell us how much each of those businesses owe, but did say a list of the delinquent businesses would be sent to WDBJ7.

As of mid-January, Powers said she had turned over four businesses to the Commonwealth Attorney's office for failure to pay the tax. She said Tuesday she was in the process of submitting another business to face possible prosecution. Powers declined a request to reveal which businesses might be facing charges, but court documents reveal at least one business group, doing business as the now-closed Mel's Place, had been indicted for failure to pay taxes and embezzlement.

As they continue collections, Heavner said they're committed to city-wide success.

"You know we'll do our best to be fair and consistent with all our businesses," she said. "We want them to be successful and thrive in the city."