5-16-14 – Shaming Delinquent Taxpayers

by John McClaughry

Tax commissioner Mary Peterson  has an idea for collecting $34 million dollars owed to the state by delinquent income tax payers. She wants to publish the worst one hundred delinquents, and expose them to the shame of being deadbeats.

After all, she reasons, many towns in Vermont publish the list of delinquent property taxes owed in the town report. In my town, that list is a popular part of the town report.

Just the same, this makes me uncomfortable. Income tax records have always been confidential. If we are going to open those files for certain individuals  who owe large amounts of income taxes and haven’t paid them, what’s to keep the tax department from letting out whatever tidbits of taxpayer information may be useful to the administration in power at the time? Both the Nixon and Clinton White Houses did this, and it was part of the impeachment charges against Nixon.

Back when Gov. Dean’s Vermont Economic Progress Credit program started – which I opposed, by the way – some opponents wanted to know how much the favored businesses were pocketing in the six credits offered. They were told that the income tax files were confidential. Finally the press was allowed to inspect the amounts of tax credits awarded by the Vermont Economic Progress Council – but whether or not the business actually claimed the credits remained confidential.

Maybe the legislature ought to allow the tax department to revoke professional, hunting and fishing and drivers licenses when the hundred largest delinquents failed to pay. That way no one would know but them.

John McClaughry is the founder and current vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peg May 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

If I employ someone to do a job for me than I should also determine how much the benefits received will also be. Our elected officials in Montpelier work for us don’t they? Or at least they are supposed to, right? Perhaps we should ALL know how many of them receive school prebates every year. Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (my Rep., but through no vote of mine) receives 68-70% of her school taxes forgiven every year. Do you? She and her husband bought a business a few years ago, even though she gets a SUBSTANTIAL tax subsidy by us and lives in a million dollar house on 26 acres? Rep. Margaret Cheney of Norwich, got tens of thousands of dollars forgiven off her million dollar homestead, because as she stated, “I am putting kids through college and I need the money.” Where are these income and assets tests? (Don’t believe me? Search the Valley News (www.vnews.com) the fall of 2008 under Jim Kenyon’s column.)
Remember when the pressure was on Montpelier to “show us our their tax subsidy?” The Democrat mob rule in Montpelier decided to make it illegal to look at someone’s school tax prebate. Don’t kid yourself! They didn’t do it to protect us, they did it to cover their own butts. They live by different rules they give to themselves.
Ask your Rep. of Senator show you there school tax pre-bate and IF you get an answer, ask them to justify why? If they won’t answer you, ask yourself, what are they hiding and why?

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