City works to warn people of hundreds of warrants going out for failure to pay income taxes, urges people to come in to avoid arrest
By SYLVIA BENAVIDEZ
At times on Friday, there was a line of people at city hall six deep waiting to see Eric Tobin, the income tax administrator for the City of Albion. A stream of an estimated 20 to 40 people came in to see if they owed the city income taxes as a result of a Facebook post put out by the Albion Department of Public Safety that same day. The post urged people to come to Albion’s city hall or public safety department to see if they owe back income tax. The announcement informed people that the City of Albion has an ordinance to collect income taxes from anyone who lives or works in Albion and anyone who does not respond to the notices will eventually have a warrant issued for their arrest. It then stated, “Hundreds of warrants for failure to pay income for the past several years have recently been issued. If you think you may owe income tax and have had a warrant issued, you must come to the Income Tax Office at City Hall or ADPS and show a valid ID. YOU WILL NOT BE ARRESTED if you come in to check your tax status, but you must set up a plan to pay your taxes or pay a bond to set a court date.”
Tobin and Albion Department of Public Safety Chief Scott Kipp both stated they don’t want to see people arrested but the city has an ordinance that has to be enforced. Both said if individuals have filed their taxes and paid what is owed, there is no issue. But if a person hasn’t filed their taxes for Albion or paid what is owed, it is better to come in before a warrant is issued to avoid extra fee and the payment of a bond or ending up in Calhoun County Jail. The city will work with people to structure a payment plan.
The pandemic, a lack of personnel in the city, and the court system slowed down the collection process over the last few years. The City of Albion sends out letters all year long to current and past residents notifying people of what they owe in income taxes.
..the city is owed at least a half a million dollars from back income taxes; that is money that could be used to fix roads…
“Whatever address we have on file we send out a minimum of four letters to most individuals depending on their case, so from their proposed assessment situation, which is where we get information from the state audit, we create a proposed assessment from that, we usually send out a minimum of four letters toward the address we have on file including one that is usually certified,” said Tobin.
Tobin estimates that the city is owed at least a half a million dollars from back income taxes; that is money that could be used to fix roads, water systems, and a myriad of other sorely needed repairs to the city’s infrastructure. “It’s important for quite a few reasons. If you look at the budget for the city, almost a third of the revenue comes from the income tax program. So, if the city is not collecting those revenues, then they can’t provide stuff like working on the roads which is important to most of our residents, providing public safety, providing parks and recreation, doing other things for the city, doing the financial work of the city. So, it’s a third of your revenue that’s gone. It’s a significant hit to the city.”
“The thing I hear from folks is that they don’t know there was an income tax. They had no idea that it was there. …we have an income tax.”
The feedback Tobin gets from a lot of people is that they aren’t aware the city has an income tax, so they have tried to get the information out more equitably. “The thing I hear from folks is that they don’t know there was an income tax. They had no idea that it was there.” When he came into the job a few years ago, he said, “We launched some stuff right away such as we started putting them on water bills.” He went out to events to share that there is a tax in the city. “I went to a lot of the apartment complexes and asked them to hand out letters to their residents that stated we have an income tax.”
I didn’t want people to get pulled over for a traffic violation and then discover they have a warrant out on them and end up in the county jail
City representatives understand the financial hardships people face in Albion and are trying to help people meet the requirements of the ordinance. “We can go back seven plus the current year, so we’re going back that far,” said Tobin. The pandemic really slowed down collections and as one individual Tobin can’t call all the people on the list and tell them to pay, but he does everything he can to make Albion residents and those who work in Albion aware that there is an income tax. “We have been working with quite a few people to get them down to a dollar amount that is reasonable to them,” he said. “Some of the information we get from the state is inaccurate and we want to make sure we have accurate information and that is why we call it a proposed assessment. People can always submit their return so we can deal with real numbers, and it gives us the opportunity to get real information into the system, and make sure that is right,” said Tobin.
Kipp does not want to see people arrested and released the information to help people understand when they don’t pay it is a crime and warrants eventually get issued. He is hoping the Facebook post will help spread the information word of mouth since his department is very limited on how they can inform people about their tax issues. Warrants have to be issued face-to-face to someone with a valid ID. More warrants have been issued this year than in the last few years. “We’ve done 388 police reports and each one is a warrant, but that doesn’t mean they are all still valid,” said Kipp. He pointed out some people may have already paid, including those people that came in on Friday. Kipp stressed again that people will not be arrested for coming in to the city. He is concerned for the people that don’t know they have warrants out for them. “I didn’t want people to get pulled over for a traffic violation and then discover they have a warrant out on them and end up in the county jail,” he said.
“Some cities deal with it as a civil issue where they sue people for it. I would prefer that, then I would not have to arrest people,”
Kipp has nothing to do with who gets the warrants. The city attorney signs the warrants, and his department has to deliver and enforce them. “Some cities deal with it as a civil issue where they sue people for it. I would prefer that, then I would not have to arrest people,” he said. As for the current situation, he can work with people in Albion, but he has no jurisdiction over how other departments handle an outstanding warrant. “If you were in Battle Creek, Battle Creek would just drive you over to the county jail because it is right there. I am trying to get people to avoid the whole court process by coming in and paying their taxes,” he said.
“If they want to bring down their tax files, I can pull out what I need that will help fix their situation.”
Other articles by Sylvia Benavidez
Photos and story copyright, The Recorder.
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