Sandals sued for tax fraud in class action

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Sandals Resorts
International, claiming that the company has engaged in deceptive tax
collection practices for decades.

The suit alleges that all-inclusive Sandals properties
throughout the Caribbean have charged guests fees that claim to be local
government taxes but are instead retained by Sandals in part or in full “for
their own use, benefit and profit.”

Sandals said it “intends to vigorously defend
these claims and trusts the judicial process. … Our
customers are our top priority, and under no circumstances would we exploit
their faith in us. Our valued guests have never — and will never — be
unlawfully charged for taxes, and allegations to the contrary are simply false.
Not only do we conduct our business with transparency, we meet all our tax
obligations in each of the islands where we call home. We take great pride in
being the gold standard in the islands where we operate and have spent close to
four decades providing guests with the most comprehensive vacation experience
bar none. This is an attempt by a law firm to use the media to generate
publicity based on an erroneous claim.”

Miami law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman,
which filed the suit in the Southern District of Florida earlier this week,
said in the filing that “deceptive charges are used to generate
extra profit at the expense of [guests], who are deceived into believing the
fees are legitimate charges directly related to Sandals’ taxes to the
government.” 

The lawsuit highlights, in particular, a 12% accommodation
tax that is currently collected at Sandals’ Beaches Turks & Caicos resort,
with the majority of that fee allegedly being retained by Sandals as part of an
agreement with the Turks & Caicos government.

Additionally, the filing accuses Beaches Turks & Caicos
of collecting the accommodation tax on guests under 12 years of age, which is
said to be illegal under Turks & Caicos law. 

Also cited in the filing is a 12.5% sales tax that was collected
by the Sandals Grande Antigua, Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados
resorts prior to 2017 and allegedly retained in part by Sandals. 

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