Delinquent taxpayers will face penalties

BARNESVILLE — Village Council agreed to allow the Regional Income Tax Agency to begin administering late fees and interest charges on village taxpayers who are late or who fail to pay their taxes, but one councilman held steadfast in his opposition to the plan.

Previously, at a council meeting held Jan. 21, Fiscal Officer Vicki Magers recommended that the village allow RITA to begin imposing the fees on delinquent taxpayers, but not on taxpayers who are required to file quarterly estimated taxes. This touched off a discussion in which Councilman Terry McCort expressed his belief that RITA’s penalty fees would be unfair to the average person who had made a simple mistake or had failed to file due to an oversight by a tax preparer. This led to the issue being tabled so any questions or concerns could be directed to the village’s RITA representative.

At the meeting held last Monday, McCort maintained his strong distaste for allowing RITA to administer penalties and fees on residents.

“We’re going to take an individual person and penalize and fine them that heavily for not filing their taxes, and I don’t trust the organization well enough to go on the good manner Jeannie (Hannahs, assistant fiscal officer) would or Vicki (Magers) would or we as council would,” McCort said last week.

Magers said that those with specific, unique situations can appeal to RITA and the final decision in those cases is made by village. She said RITA was obligated to notify the village of those cases, but McCort continued to voice skepticism concerning the agency’s practices and reach.

Mayor Dale Bunting asked what would result if council chose not to allow RITA to impose the fees. Hannahs said it would take away RITA’s leverage to collect the delinquent taxes.

Community Development Director Bill Knox complimented Majors and Hannahs and their work with RITA that resulted in a 24 percent increase in collections.

“Are there extenuating circumstances? On occasion, but if you don’t pay your electric bill your service gets shut off,” Knox said. “If you don’t pay your car payment, it gets repossessed. There need to be consequences for failure to file because we’ve had people in the past just simply not pay taxes. It’s that simple, and ultimately it’s the responsibility of the taxpayer.”

Councilman Jamie Betts agreed that there wasn’t much sense in contracting RITA if the village wasn’t going to allow the fees to be charged. Council President Brad Hudson said some process would have to be put in place to handle any appeals before Councilman Scott Gallagher made the motion to allow the penalties and fees to be administered for those who are late or fail to file, but not to impose fees on those who have to file estimated quarterly taxes.

The motion passed with four votes in favor and McCort casting the only “no” vote. Councilman Tony Johnson was not at the meeting.