Henries Law Firm Shut Down for ‘Failure to Pay Taxes’

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In its power to compel compliance with the Revenue Law, the Tax Court at the Temple of Justice on Friday, August 7, enforced the closure of the Henries Law Firm for its failure to pay real estate taxes in the amount of US$3,441.36.
The law firm, located on Benson Street, is one of the oldest in the country and founded by the late former Speaker Richard A. Henries, who was among those killed by the military junta led by President Samuel K. Doe, which overthrew the William R. Tolbert presidency in 1980.
The closure ordered on Friday was jointly done by court sheriffs, employees of the Real Estate Division and the legal team of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), based on a petition of temporary closure filed to the court.
Several other companies including Provident Hotel on 9th was closed down on Friday for tax evasion in the tune of US$70,416.63.
It took nearly two hours to effect the law firm’s closure after one ‘Momoh’ a lawyer who was in the building when the enforcement team arrived, strongly refused to leave the premises, despite several appeals from LRA’s staff.
“What has government done with monies collected from taxes,” the lawyer cried in protest to the LRA’s legal team, after court officers persuaded him to come out of the building. “They are just receiving and eating the money. What could they boast about the intent of the taxes they have collected? They are going to give account in 2017.”
When Mr. Momoh had left the building, LRA’s lead counsel, Atty. Max Duncan responded by saying, ”Why [would] a man who is a lawyer and an officer of the court want to prevent what the law says? Why would he allow his law firm to be shut down because of tax evasion?” “2017 or not, we are not going to be afraid. We will do our job without favoritism.
“What I want him to understand is that if he fails to abide by the law, his law firm will be shut-down until they can comply with the law.” He added, “We are not going to allow any threat to intimidate us – especially from a lawyer sitting there – from carrying out this exercise. We are going to engage delinquent taxpayers like the Henries Law Firm without fear and favor.”
“They are a law firm and they should be the ones protecting the law and not break it. They are officers of the court. We will continue with this exercise until lawful revenue is collected for the development of the country. They can’t hold us responsible for the action, because we held a discussion with them about their tax obligation and they failed to comply. We even posted a notice on their building informing them to make settlement of their obligation within 72hours and they again failed to take advantage of the opportunity,” adding, “It is a court order and [even] we, as lawyers, need to abide by it.”
According to him, his exercise required that they provide spot audit to have the taxpayer informed about the value of the properties and also educate them about their procedure in paying taxes to government.
“We are to educate the taxpayer to understand what their obligation is under the law, so that they can be a responsible taxpayer and to give them the opportunity to know how to make installment arrangements in paying their taxes. These are part of our responsibilities under the law, and we are going to do exactly just that.
Commenting on closure of Provident Hotel, Atty. Duncan said that the company begged them for two hours from the time they arrived, on its premises, so that they would be able to make part payment of their US$70,416.63 obligation.
“We are not going beyond the two hours they had asked for, if by 2:00 of that day, they cannot pay their obligation in the bank, we are going to shut them down,” said Atty. Duncan who said that negotiating with the hotel management was out of the question.
“What they need to understand is that they should consider themselves closed for now,” he stated.
According to him, while they were on Provident Hotel premises, the business owner, after a closed door discussion promised to pay US$10,000 as its installment payment.
“He should have paid far lower than that, but because of his delay he is going to pay that amount into government coffers right now,” Atty. Duncan stated.

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