Hall County commissioners voted Thursday to waive penalty and interest for decades of delinquent taxes, a move they hope could add millions to the county’s general fund.
From Aug. 1-31, residents can apply for waivers on penalties and interest related to back taxes dating from the mid-1980s through 2009. Tax Commissioner Keith Echols will review the waivers and present them at the board’s Oct. 13 meeting.
Commissioner Ashley Bell suggested the plan to gather some of the $3.5 million in years of delinquent taxes from residents.
“These folks still have to pay the principal on their taxes; they just get a waiver of the penalties and interests,” Bell said.
Back taxes could apply to cars and car tags, equipment, boats or homes, among other possessions, Bell said.
Residents can apply for the waiver starting Aug. 1. Echols and his office will determine who will be approved.
The county employs a collection agency, Government Tax Solutions, to collect delinquent taxes. The agency handles the legal legwork in a collection case, and the tax commissioner’s office manages the auction of collected goods, Deputy Tax Commissioner Lanny Kersh said.
The hope is that offering incentives to pay taxes will bring some much-needed revenue into the county. Commissioner Billy Powell said he hopes the waivers will bring in at least a fraction of the $3.5 million.
“If we even get half of that, then that will certainly help out the general fund,” he said. “I don’t have high hopes for people taking advantage of it, but anything’s better than nothing.”
The tax amnesty comes from a proposal Bell offered June 22. The commission voted to let County Attorney Bill Blalock write a resolution for the amnesty at that meeting.
The amnesty is a one-time offer for a county in the midst of a financial crisis, Bell said at the June meeting. The commission voted on the proposal write-up the day before 32 Hall County employees lost their jobs.
The amnesty would also ease the burden for those in financial uncertainty, Bell said Friday.
“The commission has entertained on several occasions in the last couple of years people who just had fallen on hard times, were late on their payments,” he said. “And the tax commissioner has the authority to work out payment plans.”
During his review, Echols will determined how and when the owed payments will be collected.
In the past, the commission has taken extraordinary circumstances into account when they have heard from delinquent taxpayers. The resolution Bell suggested offers a month for that purpose, Bell said.
“Overall, I think if the county promotes this well ... people with money who owe the money would rather pay to preserve their property, and we want to give those people an opportunity to do so.”