Archive for Monday, August 15, 2011

Douglas County treasurer’s office using a Tonganoxie law firm to help track down those who haven’t paid their taxes

August 15, 2011

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That boat or ATV sitting in the garage soon may become a little less fun — especially if you haven’t paid the property taxes on them.

The Douglas County Treasurer’s office is launching a program this month to collect unpaid personal property taxes. Douglas County Treasurer Paula Gilchrist said her office has hired a Tonganoxie-based law firm specializing in helping governments collect on past-due tax accounts.

“It won’t be your typical harassing, nasty type of phone calls and letters from a collection agency,” Gilchrist said. “But we do need to try to collect these taxes.”

Gilchrist said the department has 2,071 personal property tax bills that are past due. The taxes total $2.6 million, although that amount has accrued over several years.

Representatives with the Kelly Law Office soon will be sending letters to individuals and businesses that have past due taxes. Gilchrist said it has been several years — since before she started as treasurer in 2005 — that the county has employed outside attorneys to help collect tax debt.

Only taxes that are past due for personal property — items such as boats, recreational vehicles, mobile homes and some types of business equipment — will be part of the collection program. Traditional real estate taxes on homes and property are governed by separate state laws.

The attorneys will have several options available to them. The law firm will have the authority to set up payment plans for taxpayers who want to pay but are having trouble coming up with the full amount.

“We try to be easy to work with,” said Keyta Kelly, a partner with the Kelly Law Office. “We understand that this is something most people don’t want to pay, and something that can be difficult to pay. We’re not going to be dragging people into court as long as they make a good faith effort to work with us.”

But the attorneys do have the ability to file legal cases against past-due taxpayers. Past-due taxpayers can be ordered to attend a hearing in Douglas County District Court. If the taxpayer ignores the hearing, a bench warrant can be issued. In some cases, attorneys also can seek to garnish wages or bank accounts to pay past-due amounts.

Gilchrist said the Treasurer’s office has the same powers to collect past-due taxes — plus it can also send a sheriff’s deputy to your home to confiscate the property — but the office doesn’t have the staff to make such collection efforts.

“We have done so in the past, but we just don’t ever get very far down the list,” Gilchrist said. “This is a chance for us to clean-up our list.”

The law office will get paid 30 percent of the debts it collects, Gilchrist said. Gilchrist said she was uncertain how much money would be collected. She said undoubtedly some of the $2.6 million in back taxes won’t be collected.

Comments

djbrown 3 years, 10 months ago

Why couldn't a Douglas County law firm get this work? I'm a lawyer, but I don't do collections. There are lots of attorneys in the county who do however, why send our tax dollars elsewhere?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 10 months ago

It would be if someones brother-in-law lived in Douglas county.

John Hamm 3 years, 10 months ago

Isn't Tongie outside of Douglas Co? Why not a "local" firm?

Maracas 3 years, 10 months ago

Seems more objective to me to have it done outside the area. A local firm could run into conflicts with current or past clients, I guess. Also, and out-of-county firm would be less likely to have partners who have property licensed or located with Douglas County. Just a thought.

brandys 3 years, 10 months ago

Most dedicated collection practices have very few conflicts when handling other collection matters. My concern is how this firm's services were procured. After a google search I was unable to find any type of public notice of the opportunity for firms to bid this contract.

Rick Hird 3 years, 10 months ago

When the County Commission starts encouraging citizens to "buy local" they will have some splainin' to do. This is clearly outrageous and bad policy. What were they thinking?

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