Governments: Getting Blood Out of Turnips

Inquiring minds are looking at the District of Columbia and wondering if it is view to the future. Due to huge projected budget deficits government officials throughout the D.C. area are trying new and often extraordinary measures to collect millions of dollars in delinquent payments. No tax revenues means slashing public services:

Together, Washington-area localities are owed more than $40 million in overdue real estate taxes from fiscal 2010 alone. Additional millions in unrecovered fines, fees and personal property tax revenues compound those shortfalls.

They say they have been able to maintain historically high collection rates, but only by resorting to unusually aggressive collection methods.

“We give people appropriate notice, but if they ignore us, we’ll just drive out to their house and remove their car from their driveway. That’s an attention getter,” said Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary.

However, the best laid plans of bureaucrats:

O’Leary said he has used such tactics in the past, but lately has encountered a startling new phenomenon.

“This year I sent my people out to collect some vehicles, and they came back and said the properties had been abandoned,” O’Leary said. “That had never occurred in Arlington in all the years I’d been treasurer, and it was really sobering to hear that.”

O’Leary said real estate tax payment delinquency has nearly tripled in Arlington County since 2003, and as a result his department had partnered with a local lender to offer a six-month payment program.

These are not trifling amounts:

Montgomery County is projecting a $200 million shortfall next fiscal year. The District is facing a $175 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year, and projections for next year’s shortfall have ranged as high as $400 million.


… tax collection figures for fiscal 2010, but the District’s office of tax and revenue has estimated the city is now owed roughly $130 million from individuals and businesses.

Proving that Bureaucrats do indeed understand the marketplace is this quote (Think Obamacare):

Alexandria Finance Director Laura Triggs said the city had partnered with the company Global Express to allow taxpayers to pay their personal property, real estate and other taxes in cash at the company’s 50 locations across Northern Virginia.

“We certainly saw a higher percentage of people paying in cash in the last two years, which is unusual,” Trigg said. “Any options we can offer residents apart from paying their taxes at City Hall are a good thing.”

It is truly amazing that this is a story from America. When is Robin Hood going to show up?


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