Realtors face state
penalties over taxes

Twelve real estate agents from some of the largest realty firms and the husband of a real estate agent are accused of failing to timely file and pay their general excise tax returns on sales commissions for the past seven years.

Earlier this month the state attorney general filed misdemeanor complaints against Heather H. Chung, Steven D.H. Chung, Glen H. Fujihara, Mero V. Giasolli, Guy V. Kidder, Craig A. Lindner, Linda M. McCabe, Russell K. Nishimoto, Fukuyaki Puckett, Karen N. Robertshaw, Ronald B. Staton, Lloyd T. Tanaka and Bruce W. Yanagihara.

"All of Hawaii's citizens have an obligation to comply with tax laws," state Attorney General Mark Bennett said in a statement. "We will continue to vigorously prosecute those who fail to report and pay general excise taxes."

The real estate agents allegedly earned more than $9 million in sales commissions from 1998 to 2004 and failed to pay more than $575,000 in general excise taxes.

The prosecution is an ongoing effort between the state Attorney General and Department of Taxation.

A recent audit by the Department of Taxation of 10 of the largest-producing real estate firms uncovered the names of real estate agents who were not filing general excise tax returns or were underreporting their commissions, said state tax investigator Stephen Hironaka, who declined to name the various realty firms they were associated with.

All were independent contractors from various realty companies. "We were able to identify Realtors who were not filing their GET, and recommended prosecution on 12 people," he said.

A handful of other cases have also been referred to the Taxation Department's civil audit section.

Failure to file a general excise tax return is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $25,000 fine.

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