OUR OPINION: Continue collection of overdue taxes

Spending additional funds to increase the efficiency of collecting delinquent state taxes has produced a record payment of late revenue – $190 million in back taxes collected: $67.8 million in corporate income taxes, $51.4 million in general income taxes and $61.5 million in sales taxes.

The total for 2013 exceeds by $80 million the amount collected in Fiscal Year 2012.

The 2014 fiscal year started July 1, and legislators are discussing how much more needs to be spent to seek out and collect the overdue taxes from businesses and individuals.

The Legislature provided $3.5 million two years ago to hire extra staff, and the investment paid off.

During the 2012 session, the Legislature appropriated the extra money to hire 44 auditors and revenue officers. For the additional funds, Tax Commissioner Johnny Morgan said the agency could generate at least $10 million more in delinquent taxes.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said, “We collected $10 million over the prior year: eight times – $80,861,260 more in delinquent tax collections than for FY12. The results were verified by PEER.”

Who knew that Mississippi’s late taxes amounted to so much?

Somebody in the DOR probably knew, at least by projection.

PEER, which verified the amount, is the Legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee.

It is obvious that extra investment above originally projected budgets for DOR would produce additional late payments, but it is reasonable to ask how much more in calculating how many extra auditors and other revenue employees are needed.

Capitol correspondent Bobby Harrison reported Monday that House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, said that is the task for legislative leaders as they begin work later this month determining if the Department of Revenue can continue to be so successful in collecting delinquent taxes.

It’s reasonable to assume that the large amounts collected at the beginning of an effort would produce more revenue than after a special push had been ongoing for several years. It is statistically certain that some Mississippi taxpayers will run late in paying up in every budget year. There’s no statute of limitations on collecting late taxes.

Yes, of course late payers will complain, but there’s no unfairness when others have made timely payments or arrangements to pay.

“You are going to hear complaints,” Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, told fellow House members. Yes, and we hope the payment is in the mail.

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