MARTINS FERRY - A representative from the Regional Income Tax Agency spoke with council members Wednesday night and answered questions about the organization's capabilities in bringing in delinquent income tax, the tools at its disposal and how locals may help the process.
Lori Gishcel, director of marketing and member services, outlined the organization's structure, scope and duties, which cover issues such as registration, notifying businesses and litigation. Funds collected are distributed to the city twice per month.
The city's share of the annual cost is determined by comparing its transactions and collection to RITA as a whole.
LORI GISHCEL, right, director of marketing and member services with the Regional Income Tax Agency, answers questions from council about tax collection. She is pictured with Councilman Russell Armstrong.
ROBERT A. DEFRANK
Gishcel recounted Ferry's information from last year, noting that the agency sent out 1,297 letters of notification, 797 subpoenas, $34,000 in liabilities for taxes, penalty and interest, and received payment of $27,000.
Court hearings in 2012 resulted in filing 38 cases, with 17 paid in full and 21 partially paid. Liabilities filed were for $25,000. The outstanding balance is $14,500.
In addition, she noted that RITA now has access to federal tax information, thanks to a multi-year statewide grass roots effort. The prior code allowed only municipalities with a population of more than 250,000 to access the information. RITA's research had concluded that Columbus for example, was gaining a yearly increase of $10 million.
"It is proving to be very powerful for us. We have collected an excess of $1 million in the first year and we continue to gain," she said. "We're reaping those benefits for you."
RITA also offers a disaster recovery program that will kick in 24-48 hours after an an incident and provide cash flow on a limited scale.
Councilman Russell Armstrong brought up issues of individuals who refuse to pay their taxes. Gishcel said the agency's subpoena program and federal tax information are available and frequently yield results. She asked that RITA be contacted with the names and available information for delinquents. She added that city leaders and residents alike may contact RITA.
Council members also inquired about circumstances such as how RITA may obtain information about new businesses in town. Other issues included the difficulties in keeping track of the mobile worker population brought on by oil and gas interests. Mayor Paul Riethmiller noted the city plans to install an RV park, but the workers who reside in the park will not be obligated to pay the city income tax. RITA's general counsel can review the city ordinances to determine ways that Martins Ferry may capture some added tax.
Councilman Bruce Shrodes brought up the matter of individuals renting property and not informing the city. Gishcel said the city could place or enforce a landlord/tenant clause in the ordinance, requiring landlords to provide a regular listing.
In addition, Armstrong noted that individuals leasing their property to oil and gas interests must pay taxes on the lease and on royalty payments.
Other issues include doctors who work daily at the city's hospital but are based outside the community's boundaries. Gishcel said RITA would investigate any information provided.
"You are our eyes and ears," she said. "The more information you can give us, the better."
RITA can be reached at 1 866 721-7482. The Web site is www.ritaohio.com.
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org