Hertford targets delinquent taxpayers

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 5, 2004

WINTON – An effort by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners to collect back taxes is slowly reaping dividends.

During the first board meeting of 2004 held here yesterday (Monday) morning, the county’s elected leaders heard a report from Wilda Liverman, the county’s Deputy Tax Collector, concerning the Debt Setoff program adopted late last year by the Commissioners. The program, authorized through North Carolina’s General State Statutes, allows local government to target those who are delinquent in paying taxes, $50 or greater, on real estate, personal property and/or motor vehicles.

According to Liverman’s report, the county mailed out delinquent tax bills on Dec. 17. Following the letter of the law, those taxpayers have exactly 30 days to either settle the debt or have it turned over to the North Carolina Department of Revenue. If the individual responsible for paying the back taxes has not done so within the 30 days and is due a state income tax refund, that money owned to the county, plus a $15 collection fee, will be withheld from the refund and forwarded to Hertford County.

Liverman said that as of Dec. 31, a total of $115,251.15 has been collected from delinquent taxpayers. She hopes more will arrive prior to the end of the 30-day period.

However, that figure pales in comparison to the total bill. When asked by Commissioner DuPont Davis what was the total owed to Hertford County, Liverman replied, &uot;$2.5 million.&uot;

&uot;I know there’s a lot of back taxes that remain uncollected,&uot; she stated. &uot;This is just the start. If we don’t get them this year then we’ll get them in the next tax refund year. If they are due a tax refund from the state and at the same time they owe us money in back taxes, this program is designed to recover the money owed to the county.&uot;

Davis expressed concern over delinquent taxpayers who have moved out of state.

&uot;This program is offered to us only through the North Carolina Department of Revenue,&uot; answered Liverman. &uot;If a delinquent taxpayer has moved out of state, then we still can send them a bill, but there’s no way to recover the money through another state’s department of revenue.&uot;

Commissioner Brenda Greene inquired whether or not someone was responsible for taxes on a motor vehicle they no longer owned. Liverman explained that just as soon as that person applied for a license plate on a motor vehicle, taxes are assessed immediately for the upcoming year. However, if the owner could show proof that the vehicle was sold or traded in for another, the taxes could be prorated for the time the person owned the vehicle.

In a related matter, Hertford County resident Ken Terry was listed on Monday’s agenda to voice his concerns over the Debt Setoff program. He expressed anger over receiving bills – totaling, with interest, $267.66 on two vehicles – that were seven years old.

&uot;No disrespect to Mrs. Liverman or her department, but something is amiss when a taxpayer receives a bill dating back seven years,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m a man that stands on principal. I do not think this is right. I do not think this is fair, but as an honest taxpaying citizen, I will leave this meeting and go down the hall to the Tax Office and pay this. But before I do, I just wanted you to know that I think this is totally unfair.&uot;

Terry stated he was under the impression that when he got rid of the two vehicles years ago – one traded in on another vehicle and the other sold for junk due to a blown engine – that the taxes would be taken care of by those taking the vehicles off his hands.

Hertford County Manager Don Craft intervened and stated that Terry’s case may have, &uot;fallen through the cracks.&uot; He asked Terry to provide detailed information concerning the dates he got rid of the vehicles and that he would study those details.