It Is about to get a LOT WORSE around D.C.......
Imagine what would things look like if the Federal Government actually had to cut like mainstreet?????
Tax officials throughout the Washington region are trying new and often extraordinary measures to collect tens of millions of dollars in delinquent payments, as huge projected budget deficits threaten to slash public services.
Together, Washington-area localities are owed more than $40 million in overdue real estate taxes from fiscal 2010 alone. Additional millions in unrecovered fines, fees and personal property tax revenues compound those shortfalls.
They say they have been able to maintain historically high collection rates, but only by resorting to unusually aggressive collection methods.
"We give people appropriate notice, but if they ignore us, we'll just drive out to their house and remove their car from their driveway. That's an attention getter," said Arlington County Treasurer Frank O'Leary.
O'Leary said he has used such tactics in the past, but lately has encountered a startling new phenomenon.
"This year I sent my people out to collect some vehicles, and they came back and said the properties had been abandoned," O'Leary said. "That had never occurred in Arlington in all the years I'd been treasurer, and it was really sobering to hear that."
O'Leary said real estate tax payment delinquency has nearly tripled in Arlington County since 2003, and as a result his department had partnered with a local lender to offer a six-month payment program.
Tax officials elsewhere said they too had implemented a number of new collection strategies in an effort to shepherd every last dime into their counties' coffers.
In Fairfax County, Department of Tax Administration Director Kevin Greenlief said his agency was relying more on collection agencies to handle delinquent payments, and has a number of additional collection weapons in its arsenal.
"We can seize your income tax refund. We can put registration blocks on you at the [Department of Motor Vehicles] so you can't register your car. We can boot cars. Those are pretty aggressive tools," he said. "We don't want to take draconian measures unless we have to, but sometimes it's necessary."
Massive budget shortfalls have forced the hand of many local collections officials.
Montgomery County is projecting a $200 million shortfall next fiscal year. The District is facing a $175 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year, and projections for next year's shortfall have ranged as high as $400 million.
Presumptive Mayor-elect Vincent Gray has said he will focus on cutting the budget before raising taxes. But the District's likely next council chairman, Kwame Brown, told The Washington Examiner he plans to push hard to ensure all taxes and fees owed to the city are paid back before pressing forward with budget cuts and tax increases.
"Before we start talking about tax hikes and laying off employees, we should find out what people owe us," Brown said. "Then we need to figure out what we're doing to get our money."
The District recently concluded a six-week amnesty program, which brought in about $20 million. D.C. tax officials failed to respond to repeated requests for tax collection figures for fiscal 2010, but the District's office of tax and revenue has estimated the city is now owed roughly $130 million from individuals and businesses.
Local collection officials also are trying to make it simpler for residents to pay their dues.
Alexandria Finance Director Laura Triggs said the city had partnered with the company Global Express to allow taxpayers to pay their personal property, real estate and other taxes in cash at the company's 50 locations across Northern Virginia.
"We certainly saw a higher percentage of people paying in cash in the last two years, which is unusual," Trigg said. "Any options we can offer residents apart from paying their taxes at City Hall are a good thing."
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Cash-strapped-governments-ramping-up-tax-collection-efforts-1277126-105384353.html#ixzz12xbPrWQ7