Tax collector reports ‘successful’ suspense collection rate this year

Wilton tax collector Phil Damato presented to the Board of Finance a list of tax items he feels have been uncollectible for the past year. This list is known as the suspense list.

“Even though this is a suspense list, it still counts on our collectible. It’s just money that we don’t count on right now,” Damato told the finance board at its meeting on April 19.

“On the suspense list are mainly people who have moved out of state, mail returns that we cannot locate the people on, bankruptcies, deceased or out of business.”

Like last year’s list, most of the items on the 2016 suspense list are out-of-state motor vehicles as a result of people moving out of state and not registering their cars in their new states within 30 days, said Damato.

“The majority of the motor vehicle [delinquencies] that we have on the list are people who have moved out of state and basically don’t understand the requirements that are needed to get these bills adjusted or deleted,” he said.

“Most of the people probably don’t even know that they need to supply particular information to the assessor — whether they have to turn in their Connecticut plates [or] if they sold the car or junked the car or whatever they did.”

A state statute gives the assessor 27 months from the assessment date to make any adjustments, said Damato, and if a delinquency isn't adjusted within that 27-month timeframe, the entire bill will still be owed.

“On the 2014 grand list, they have until December of this year to do an adjustment,” he said, adding that people can have a bill deleted if they can prove they got rid of a car prior to the Oct. 1 assessment date.

Damato said the current balance of Wilton's 2016 suspense list is approximately $304,000.

“We’ve had a very successful collection rate this year. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with suspense, we’ve collected $5,450 on taxes and $9,980 in interest,” said Damato.

“The main reason for that is we’ve had a couple of people move back to Connecticut who had moved out of state and they cannot register their cars.”

Damato said the new Department of Motor Vehicles computer system helps identify people with leased cars who owe back taxes.

“People who have leased cars now have their names on them. Prior to the new system, people who leased cars could not be located and they didn’t have to pay taxes because they could lease a new car even though they had back taxes,” he said.

“Now, with the new computer, we can find them and they can’t register or lease a car.”

Some states have been working together to collect motor vehicle tax delinquencies by having tax collectors transfer delinquency lists to motor vehicle departments, said Damato.

When a tax collector submits a delinquency list, the DMV then flags the registration renewals of registrants who owe past-due property taxes, disabling someone who owes back taxes from registering his or her vehicle in a new state.

According to the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association, motor vehicle departments will not renew a flagged registration or issue a new one until the taxpayer obtains a release or clearance slip from their local tax collectors, showing that their motor vehicle taxes are fully paid.

With the Board of Finance’s acceptance of this year’s suspense list, Damato will send the it to a collection agency or the state marshal for collection, even though, he pointed out, “the tax office will still make every effort to collect the funds.”

When the suspense list is sent out for collection, the town gets 100% and the debt collector or state marshal gets a 15% charge on top of that.