COLUMN: City should get tough on delinquent taxes

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Column as I see ’em ...

Kudos to the city council for discussing how to collect city property taxes from those who don’t pay.

It’s flat-out amazing that, in 2010, the council is just now getting around to doing so, but that’s another story.

During its meeting Monday, the council discussed what to do with small amounts owed — $100, $200, etc. — in terms of how much it costs to file a suit to collect vs. just letting it go. Seems fairly simple that a lien against the property should do the trick, which would place the city first in line to collect when the property is sold.

What’s distressing is the idea that all told, the city is owed somewhere around $100,000. In these days of multi-million dollar budgets and multi-trillion dollar stimulus packages and health care takeovers, err, reforms, a hundred grand seems a fairly paltry sum.

It’s not and here’s why: My city property taxes run somewhere around $350 a year. To fork over $100,000 (at my current assessment and the city’s tax rate) will take just under 300 years. That’s 10 generations of Carlsons paying taxes on my house just to cover for the schleps who don’t pay their own taxes.

Taking a hard-line approach — vs. an approach where people are actually getting past the statute of limitations and walking away from their tax bills scot-free — should go a long way toward getting people to pay.

Perhaps then my burden for covering for them can shrink to, oh, let’s say, 200 years.

Speaking of free, that’s just how much the venerable IRS apparently thinks The Anderson News should be paid to promote the federal Earned Income Credit program.

I received a CD containing multiple advertisements last week from the IRS, along with a request to run them for free, the gist being to encourage those eligible for the EIC to include it in their tax returns.

Never mind that the IRS probably spent my entire lifetime’s tax burden times 1,000 mailing that stupid request to newspapers across the country. That, too, is another story.

Anyway, the EIC is a misnamed federal giveaway program that transfers money from those who pay federal taxes to those who essentially do not, that ratio now being about 50-50.

I say misnamed because, like it or not, those getting this credit haven’t “earned” it. In my warped worldview, a person “earns” money when they work for it. The EIC, however, is money given to people who have jobs but apparently don’t get paid enough in the federal government’s warped worldview.

So, when those folks file their taxes, not only don’t they have to pay, they actually in some cases receive thousands of dollars on top of their normal refund.

The IRS even has the audacity to call EIC a refund, but I’ll be danged if I can understand how someone gets a refund without first paying for something.

Try that next time you go to Walmart, and let me know how it works out for you.

Speaking of paying, I was amazed to find out while investigating the story on this week’s front page about the water tower on Lanes Mill Road that it’s acceptable for the South Anderson Water District to have a 9 percent loss on water it buys from Lawrenceburg.

That seems sort of high, and certainly drives up the cost for users.

Those in charge will defend the loss, and in most cases rightfully so. You can’t sell water without spilling some here and there — it’s not Wild Turkey or Four Roses, after all.

Yet the notion that the customer isn’t paying for that spillage is far from true. The bottom line is that the South Anderson Water District doesn’t have or make any money. Instead, the funds it has are only those forked over each month from customers. (The same is true at all levels of government, by the way.) Just because those customers aren’t getting directly billed for slippage, they’re paying for it in the long run because the water district sets its per-gallon rate on the total amount it buys, not sells.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.