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Ben Arnold behind on taxes but says it's not nearly as much as the IRS claims he owes

11/05/2012 5:00 AM

11/05/2012 11:56 AM

WICHITA — After taking care of some tax trouble he had with Corporate Caterers of Wichita a few years back, Ben Arnold hoped to never be behind again. He is, though, and he's as forthright as ever about it.

"I do owe taxes," Arnold says. However, he says he doesn't owe anywhere close to the approximately $250,000 the IRS says he owes.

"If I did, I would be in Mexico right now. That would just be an obnoxious amount you would have to owe for a period that covers 12 months."

Arnold believes he owes only about a third of what the government says he owes. The issue, he says, is the IRS says it didn't receive documentation from him.

"They assess a tax if they don't have documentation in front of them," he says.

Arnold says his accountant had sent proper documents and that he personally has now sent them a second time.

"That's why I'm really, really frustrated."

Arnold rapidly expanded his BLA Enterprises with catering at Comotara Center and two corporate cafes, Cafe 151 at Cargill and Cafe Intrust at Intrust Bank. He also owns AVI Seabar & Chophouse, which he opened late last year in the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview.

"When I started this expansion, most of (the businesses) worked. A couple did not," Arnold says. "We hit a very large pothole, and we're filling it in."

The largest pothole is AVI.

Arnold says in AVI's first two months of business in 2011, it lost $75,000.

He says it was like "if you just popped a balloon, everything fell out."

By August, Arnold says losses were down to $1,900.

He says September and October were profitable, and he believes AVI can be an almost $1 million-a-year business.

"We've grown to like it."

Arnold says he now owes less than $16,000 on the business' taxes.

He says another issue is the unprofitable banquet facilities he has in 9,000 square feet at Comotara.

"That's one part of the business I've got to do something with. ... I love my location, and I don't want to leave it."

Arnold says his catering is doing well and is on track to gross between $3.2 million and $3.3 million this year.

He says the cafes also "are extremely healthy."

Arnold says it's a "long, drawn-out process" getting tax discrepancies corrected, and while he's frustrated, he's not fazed despite the fact that he and his wife have used personal savings to cover some debt and have paid themselves almost nothing throughout the year.

"No one plans to fail," Arnold says. "Any small business has struggles. You do what you're supposed to do. ... I don't see this as a huge obstacle for me to overcome."

About Carrie Rengers

Carrie Rengers joined The Eagle's Business team in 2002 despite her inability to even balance a checkbook. Fortunately for her, and readers, her Have You Heard? blog is about business scoops and contains lots of news but almost no math.

A Michigan native, Carrie’s father was quite tragically transferred to Little Rock, Ark., in the middle of her sophomore year of high school. To make matters worse, her parents put her in a girls school. She recovered, though, and went on to enjoy being an English major at Hendrix College (the Harvard of the Ozarks, don’t you know). She worked for the weekly Arkansas Business and the statewide daily Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before moving to Wichita to be with her favorite writer and cook, husband Joe Stumpe.

Carrie encourages readers to contact her with tips, questions, behind-the-scenes business news and even funny quotes from business people. Reach her at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com

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