City of Marysville Law Director Tim Aslaner spends a lot of time representing the city in court.
Most of that is not to fight litigious parties or disgruntled residents, but to collect delinquent income taxes.
According to a stat sheet provided by the city, as of 2016 the city has 21,499 unfiled returns. The city is still processing delinquent returns from 2017. There are 2,948 from 2012; 3,686 from 2013; 4,332 from 2014; 4,998 from 2015; and 5,535 from 2016.
That’s $1,070,541.14 in delinquent taxes. City Finance Director Justin Nahvi said about 70 percent of that is either being pursued in court, or being repaid through a payment plan.
Aslaner estimated he spends about 10 hours per week during his busiest weeks of the year reviewing income tax cases and appearing in court.
Income Tax Administrator Jackie Ward said in the fall and through January, she and her staff could spend at least 10 hours per employee on preparing delinquent taxes for Aslaner’s office.
Aslaner said when they take these cases to court, it’s “basically a lawsuit” against a resident for damages in the unpaid amount.
To determine how much to ask for in damages, the city looks at the resident’s past filings and generates an average. If past filings are unattainable, the city simply goes by minimum wage.
Aslaner said these claims are typically filed in small claims court, with more serious debts going to the municipal or common pleas courts. Those damages are in addition to interest on delinquent taxes and penalties.
If the resident can’t pay what they owe even after it’s gone to court, Aslaner said the city is willing to give residents the chance to pay in installments.
“We really go out of our way to work with folks,” Aslaner said.
There are occasions when the city takes a resident to court who simply cannot pay, even with an installment plan. When that happens, Aslaner said the city does its best to collect what it can.
“We don’t collect on every case, that’s for sure,” Aslander said.
Despite all that, Nahvi said he doesn’t believe the city has a problem.
“I don’t think we have a delinquency issue,” Nahvi said.
Aslaner said the city has not spoken to other municipalities to compare, but said he would guess the city’s tax paying population is relatively normal.
“I don’t think there’s anything different about our taxpayers versus the taxpayers of Hilliard, or Sidney or Troy,” Aslaner said.
Nahvi also said it helps that the city is doing well overall financially.
“I think the issue for some community, if they get hit by a large employer leaving, I think that’s more of a concern than delinquency issues,” Nahvi said.
Despite the high number of delinquent taxes, Nahvi noted the number of returns being filed year over year is increasing. According to the sheet, 13,702 returns were filed in 2015; 16,614 in 2016; and 19,449 in 2017.
Nahvi said in speaking with his staff in the finance department, officials hope the city’s education efforts and court filings are helping stem the amount of delinquencies.
“We’re trying to do as much as we can mostly just to educate everyone,” Nahvi said.
According to Ward, when a return becomes delinquent, the city tries to work with the resident in any way it can. That includes the option of a payment plan.
Ward said once that payment agreement is broken, or the resident fails to respond to the typically three letters sent as warning, the city would then forward the problem to Aslaner’s office.
For those who don’t know how to prepare taxes, Nahvi said any resident can come into City Hall and have their taxes handled for free.
He also noted Marysville is home to accounting firms and other organizations that can assist with tax preparation.
Ward said people should at least make sure they file their taxes on time. If they do, the city can work with them in terms of payment. She also noted late filings result in additional penalties.
Ward also said people use tax filing software like Turbotax, and don’t understand that those programs don’t “speak” to local municipalities.
“None of that information is transferred to any municipality, not just Marysville,” she said. “They think they’re filing, but they’re actually not.”
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