Ever hear of a multi-billionaire tax delinquent? The state of California is chasing down a couple of deadbeat corporations that have failed to pay years of environmental fees, breaking the law, and denying taxpayers potentially millions of dollars. A report by TV station KCRA Channel 3 in Sacramento, California says that Wal-Mart and Home Depot have failed to pay the 2.1 cent fee on every dollar of pesticide sales in the state. Wal-Mart alone has 191 stores in California, The company says it paid $720 million in sales taxes in California in 2004, but apparently stiffed the state entirely on pesticide fees. The state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has ordered Wal-Mart and Home Depot to turn over all financial records relating to the sale of pesticide. “It does create an unleveled playing field. When you have retailers that do meet their obligation and then you have them competing against retailers that do not, it’s just one more area where there is inequity,” Department of Pesticide Regulation Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam told KCRA. “They’re also selling materials that are unregistered for use in California,” Warmerdan said. “In the last decade we have not received one penny from Home Depot as it relates to this obligation.” Wal-Mart claims that it has surrendered its sales records, but the DPR says they have gotten very little compliance from either company. Wal-Mart, for example, was ordered to turn over records of 20 different pesticides, but has only turned over records for three. Home Depot has not turned over any in-store reports.
Last year Wal-Mart had sales of $287.9 billion, and Home Depot had sales of $73.l billion. It’s hard for either company to plead hardship. They can’t plead ignorance of the law, because the state DPR has been after these companies for years. The real victims here are the taxpayers of California, who will not see these lost taxes mentioned anywhere on Wal-Mart’s community impact statement. The principle, ‘break the law until the law breaks you,’ seems to be at work here. For other environmental transgressions by these companies, search Newsflash by “environment.”