Carroll cracks down on back taxes

By Allen Worrell -

Carroll County has voted to publish lists of delinquent taxpayers for both real estate and personal property taxes in local newspapers, on its website, and in the minutes of its meetings. The county also voted to use methods such as DMV stops and garnishing tax refunds as ways to collect delinquent personal property taxes.

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors unanimously took action on separate motions for both delinquent tax lists during its monthly meeting Monday. The collection of delinquent taxes has been high on the board’s priority list in recent months, especially as its grinds toward what is expected to be another tight budget season.

Supervisor Dr. Tom Littrell brought the subject up in November after the county had to approve a revenue anticipation note the previous month. At that time, Littrell said the budget is tight because the county can’t tap into $5 million of its own money – a figure which roughly represents Carroll County’s uncollected delinquent taxes.

Supervisor Bob Martin revisited the subject Monday during Supervisors’ Time. Earlier in the meeting, Assistant County Administrator Nikki Cannon noted the county was going to have to appropriate $315,000 for excess per diems for prisoners at New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin to get Carroll through the end of the fiscal year in June. Martin said there is no way the county can continue to absorb $315,000 for the regional jail, on top of an additional appropriation in March expected to exceed $1 million for the Comprehensive Services Act.

“Neither one of those things are budgeted for. One thing I am concerned on is some of this stuff is sneaking up on us. Dr. Littrell’s comments a few meetings ago, you zinged me and woke me up,” Martin said. “We have to collect delinquent taxes to make the wheels go. I estimate on Bob Martin math that delinquent taxes probably add 10 percent or more to everybody’s tax bill that pays their taxes. If you pay $1,000, probably $100 is (makeup for those who don’t pay their taxes).”

Before making his first motion, Martin said Carroll County has to get a handle on its delinquent taxes right now. If not, then more tax funds will go down the tubes and the county won’t have enough money to operate. His first motion was to publish delinquent tax information and authorize the collection of delinquent real estate taxes.

“I move that we instruct staff to take the most up-to-date list of delinquent real estate taxpayers furnished by the treasurer’s office originally due to be furnished to board of supervisors in July of 2017 by state law. Publish that list of names owing and amounts due in the local newspaper as well as on the county website stating it is current as of the date certified by the treasurer,” Martin said. “According to most recent numbers provided by the treasurer’s office, these delinquent taxes total over $2.2 million. This motion, if passed, also instructs staff to include this list in the minutes of this meeting. Thirty days after publication of the delinquent tax information, the treasurer’s office furnish an updated list to the board of supervisors all remaining uncollected amounts within two days after passage of the 30th day from publication, publish it in paper, put it in our minutes, on our website, then there is a deadline to receive additional info. The board of supervisors will cause this list to be turned over to the collection organization of its choice, which will then sell for collection of the delinquent taxes the properties eligible for judicial sale under Virginia Code 58.1-3965. For those properties not yet eligible for judicial sale, we request the treasurer’s office demonstrate appropriate late notices that have been sent and other proper efforts being made to collect delinquent taxes on a timely basis.”

Continuing with the motion, Martin said as a result of these activities, the current disposition of all taxes billed can be made known to the citizens of Carroll County. They are either collected, in the process of being collected by judicial sale, in the process of being collected by other means or are not being collected at all.

“We know we can count on the treasurer’s office to cooperate fully with the Board of Supervisors, a collection agency of our choice in the collection of these back taxes up to and including, if necessary, full inspection of all data maintained by the office regarding taxation billings and collections as mandated by Virginia Code 58.1-3127,” Martin said. “In other words we do have the legal authority to look at the treasurer’s records to make sure that we have covered everybody. That is my motion.”

Martin said if the board waited until October to make such a motion another $200,000 of uncollectable taxes would officially be off the books.

“Personally Dr. Littrell you zinged me because it hit me that my poor old mother started in October asking, ‘Bobby do you have the tax ticket? As soon as you get them you let me know, we are going to Hillsville to pay the taxes,’” Martin said. “She didn’t have squat. She drew a Social Security check but she showed up and paid her dang taxes. What she paid was about $400 for a house and one-third of an acre. Of that $400, she probably was paying $40 or $50 for the people not paying and that ain’t right. I stand with you Dr. Littrell on this that either we collect the taxes we are responsible for or we might as well chuck things in the trashcan.”

County Attorney Stephen Durbin noted that the county could publish lists of delinquent taxes at any time, but has to give at least 30 days of notice to taxpayers prior to going to a judicial sale.

“My feeling is if we make it part of the minutes, we have given them a warning, and then if we publish it in the paper it is a second warning,” Martin said. “And then if the treasurer sends out written notice, that is three warnings. Looks like to me something bad is coming after three warnings.”

Rex Hill seconded the motion, which passed unanimously. Littrell worried though about the effect it would have on the county’s ability to collect on judicial sales if it suddenly flooded the housing market with a large number of properties.

“The notice will usually be sent in batches, the ones that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. And there may be 50 properties to start. Many will come in and pay, so you may only go to sell on 15 of the 50,” Durbin said. “That is how you handle it if there is a glut or a backlog. I would encourage us to move forward on as many properties as possible.”

Martin then moved to his second motion – to publish delinquent personal property tax information and encourage the collection of delinquent personal property taxes.

“I move that we instruct staff to take the most up-to-date list of delinquent personal property taxpayers furnished by the treasurer’s office as of today and publish that list of names owing and amounts due in local newspapers, as well as on the county website… and make it part of the minutes, too,” Martin said. “I urge the Treasurer’s office to use methods available to it to collect these delinquent taxes.”

Martin’s motion stated some methods available to the treasurer’s office that have proven to be effective in other localities include DMV stops and Debt Set-Off. He said DMV stops give the treasurer authority to submit delinquent personal property files to DMV. Once the file is uploaded to DMV, customers will not be able to conduct certain transactions at DMV.

“Once all taxes and associated fees have been satisfied, the treasurer will release the DMV stop in the treasurer’s office. A DMV stop can be placed against an individual, not the vehicle, any time after the taxes become delinquent,” Martin said. “A DMV fee of $50 is added to the tax debt. DMV requires that tax debts associated with the DMV stop must be paid with certified funds such as cash, money orders, credit cards or certified checks. Debt set-off allows the treasurer to submit a claim for unpaid taxes and/or other debts owed to the county to the Virginia Department of Taxation. When a delinquent taxpayer files a state income tax return, the Commonwealth of Virginia will notify the treasurer of any refund due to the taxpayer. That refund will be held by the Virginia Department of Taxation until the treasurer is able to claim the portion of the refund needed to satisfy the tax debt and any associated fees. It is time the citizens of Carroll County reap the benefits of these and other improved collection methods.”

Durbin noted that auctions can be done on property that is delinquent with personal property taxes. However, the DMV stop is the most cost-effective measure.

“DMV stops are something the Code of Virginia gives you that are highly effective,” he said. “If you can’t renew your registration, that is a good way to get paid.”

Supervisor Phillip McCraw seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN
County votes to publish delinquent tax lists, sell properties, make DMV stops

By Allen Worrell