Upgraded tool will help prevent new taxes

Published 9:59 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

by Dinah Babb, David Britt and Judy Wells

The treasurers for the City of Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties are using an old tool to better collect taxes and help prevent future increases.

Treasurers are tasked to collect the revenue necessary for local services such as fire, police, schools, emergency services and other funds.

Most of the revenue is collected on time, but a small, yet significant percentage of the taxes are not paid and require other means of collection to prevent large write-offs and future tax increases.

As far back as 1950, Virginia law has allowed treasurers to issue seizure warrants as a means of collecting delinquent taxes. In the past, warrants were given to in-house collectors or the sheriff’s department to locate the delinquent property, serve the warrant, seize the property and collect the taxes.

The process has merit; it is limited due to the amount of time, labor and cost required of the locality. Seizures are processed in-house, all costs to locate, seize and collect taxes must come out of collected taxes.

This reduces the net amount to be applied to the needs of the locality.

The treasurers announce an upgrade to the seizure process that will collect more taxes and allow 100 percent of the taxes collected to be applied to the needs of the city or county and reduce the need to increase future budgets due to loss of revenue.

Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County are utilizing the service of Virginia Auction and Collections Co. and its license plate readers to locate and seize delinquent taxes.

Here’s how the system works and what you need to know.

In place of a single warrant, the treasurers upload their delinquent list to VAC. Using license plate readers equipped with the treasurers’ information, VAC scans all parked cars in parking lots, driveways and streets.

Once the reader locates a license plate matching a delinquent account, the VAC agent verifies the vehicle’s identification and boots the car for tow later that evening.

The agent also places a warrant, explaining the seizure on the vehicle.

If your vehicle is booted, immediately call the treasurer’s office to settle your account.

If you make payment before close of business that day, you can avoid having your vehicle towed and only incur the booting fee and 20 percent collection fee.

Should you fail to pay the treasurer before close of business, your vehicle will be towed to a secure compound and you will incur tow and storage fees.

Due to city and county liabilities, no car can be left booted in parking lots, or on the street.

In other jurisdictions where VAC is working, 98 percent of all seizures are redeemed and released within three days.

Most of that occurs within the first 24 hours.

For the 2 percent who do not redeem their vehicle, the treasurers can carry their vehicle to auction to cover the unpaid taxes and costs to seize the vehicle.

The treasurers encourage you to pay your taxes on time and help keep future taxes low.

DINAH BABB is treasurer for the City of Franklin and can be reached at dbabb@franklinva.com.

DAVID BRITT is treasurer of Southampton County and can be reached at 653-3025.

JUDY WELLS is treasurer of Isle of Wight County and can be reached at 365-6228.