Booted for taxes

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

BOYKINS—Boykins residents who fail to pay their personal property taxes may “get the boot.”

And property owners with delinquent real estate taxes could be next.

The Town Council recently voted unanimously to hire Virginia Auction and Collections Co. in an attempt to collect $10,000 in delinquent personal property taxes, said Mayor Spier Edwards. The tax is levied annually on vehicles, trailers and motorcycles.

Southampton County and the City of Franklin since late May have been working with the same company.

In less than two weeks, the county collected $110,560 in back taxes. Of that, $23,685 came from the 112 people whose vehicles were booted — making it impossible to drive them — while $86,874 came from people who apparently hoped to avoid getting the boot.

The City of Franklin collected $14,000 during the same time period.

Treasurers send their delinquent lists to Virginia Auction. Using license-plate readers equipped with the treasurers’ information, Virginia Auction employees scan cars in parking lots, driveways and streets.

Once the reader locates a license plate matching a delinquent account, the agent boots the car. The agent also places a warrant explaining the seizure on the vehicle. A note is left for the owner to call the treasurer’s office to settle the tax account.

If payment is made before the close of business that day, the vehicle is not towed; the only cost is $30 to have the boot removed and a 20 percent collection fee.

If the treasurer’s office is closed, the vehicle will be towed. The towing fee is $200.

Edwards expects the effort to begin in Boykins after July 1.

“We can go back five years on personal property tax vehicles,” he said.

Real estate and personal property taxes fund about half of the town’s $221,000 budget, Edwards said.

“We need the money to operate and we need to keep our finances in line,” he said. “We’ve been unable to find attorneys wanting to do collection of taxes.”

Contracting with Virginia Auction will not cost the town any money. Taxpayers must pay a 20 percent fee on top of what they owe, which goes to the company.