News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 21, 2013

Vigo owed $8.4M in property taxes

Treasurer working to collect delinquent bills

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — In mid-July, Vigo County Treasurer Jim Bramble sent out more than 2,400 notices of unpaid personal property taxes, largely to businesses.

It’s part of the job of a county treasurer to certify delinquent personal property taxes, but it has not been done since at least 2000.

Bramble said there is about $8.4 million in uncollected taxes, but he expects just about 20 to 25 percent of that to be collected. Some of the businesses may no longer exist or people may be deceased.

As of Tuesday, the treasurer had collected $50,000 in delinquent personal property taxes.

“The bad part of this is that if someone owes a delinquent personal property tax bill in the year 2000, it has been accruing penalty, at the rate of 10 percent, every year since then,” said Bramble.

Personal property taxes are delinquent if not paid after Nov. 10. Before the first day in August of the next year, the treasurer is then to send out a demand notice, giving a taxpayer 30 days to pay.

“This has not been done since 2000, and I don’t know why,” said Bramble who was elected in 2012.

After the 30 days, the treasurer is supposed to send certified delinquent personal property taxes to the county clerk’s office. The treasurer then removes the tax bill from county tax records.

“They become a judgment in the clerk’s office,” Bramble said. “The amount due attaches to any real estate or personal property that the taxpayer may own.

“At that point, [the county] has authority to engage in the collection processes like any other judgments — levy bank accounts, garnish wages, seize property and sell it if it comes to that,” the treasurer said.

In addition, when the delinquent tax becomes a judgment, the 10-percent penalty stops, which is actually beneficial to some taxpayers, Bramble said.

“There are folks out there who owe more penalty than they do tax,” the treasurer said.

Many of those are firms no longer in business in Vigo County. For example, Furrow Building Materials owes $3,026 in taxes, plus an additional $8,010 in delinquent fees, for total of $11,036. The former Boston Restaurant & Sports Bar owes $3,242 in delinquent taxes and an identical $3,242 in penalties, for total of $6,484.

Other examples of delinquent taxes are Crossroads Communications Inc. of Anderson, owing $6,510 in personal property taxes plus $4,558 in penalties ($11,068 total) or Xtreme Lazer Tag & Sun Tan Center with $8,149 in delinquent taxes plus $9,437 in penalties ($17,587 total).

The treasurer said he does not have authority to change the amount of taxes and penalties due. If a taxpayer thinks there is an assessment error, the taxpayer can contact the county assessor. If the taxpayer thinks there is an error in calculation, the taxpayer can contact the county auditor.

“We can work with a taxpayer if they make an effort to make payment. We would not send the delinquent bill to a bill collector or other aggressive attempts to collect,” the treasurer said.



Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.