State steps up back-tax collections

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – If you’ve received a notice from the Mississippi Department of Revenue for back taxes owed, perhaps there is some solace in knowing you are not alone.
Since the week of Oct. 22, the Department of Revenue has sent out “154,305 statements to taxpayers who collectively owe back taxes, interest and penalties of $394,985,453.34,” according to Kathy Waterbury, a spokeswoman for the agency.
And Waterbury said the department will continue to send out monthly statements “similar to a credit card bill” until the taxes are paid.
She said thus far the Department of Revenue has collected $1.2 million from 4,000 taxpayers via the mail. She said Friday she did not have a figure yet of how many might have paid how much online.
The enhanced effort to collect back taxes is being undertaken, thanks to an additional $5 million the Legislature appropriated to the Department of Revenue during the 2012 session. That money allowed the agency to hire additional personnel and add technology that allowed the more aggressive tax collections.
And don’t count on the more enhanced tax collection effort stopping any time soon. In the narrative that accompanies his budget proposal released earlier this week, Gov. Phil Bryant said, “Likewise, my fiscal year 2014 budget includes a specific increase of $3.5 million to the Department of Revenue to further boost collection of what Mississippi is owed in tax dollars.”
Waterbury said the department has received numerous calls from people questioning the statements. She said checks reveal the statements being generated by the new technology are correct, based on the returns that originally were filed with the agency.
If people have a question, Waterbury said they should call the phone number on the statement.
“We have received a lot of phone calls, mostly from people with older liabilities that either forgot they owed, or hoped we had forgotten,” she said. “Due to a lack of resources, follow-up efforts on outstanding debts were affected during the last several years. That is primarily why people forgot about it … but all assessment notices required by law were sent (to the address of record) and remain due until paid.”
If the taxes are not paid, the state has a number of options, including:
• Garnishing wages.
• Filing tax liens.
• Denying homestead exemptions.
• Keeping future income tax refunds that might be owed to a person.
• Intercepting federal income refunds.
Waterbury said debt owed the state does not go away – even in death.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com