Tax payment mix-up

Published 9:38 am Friday, June 24, 2011

Richard Sumblin shows the "paid" stamp on his 2010 real estate tax bill. The 71-year-old's 2004 Cadillac was towed for non-payment of personal property taxes, although he was current on his bill. -- Gwen Albers | Tidewater News

Richard Sumblin stands next to his Ford pickup. On Monday night, Sumblin's 2004 Cadillac was towed for non-payment of taxes. -- Gwen Albers | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—When Richard Sumblin couldn’t find his car outside a Chesapeake bowling alley at 10:30 p.m. Monday, he assumed the 2004 Cadillac had been stolen.

The 71-year-old soon learned it was towed for taxes he didn’t owe.

“I ain’t never missed (paying my taxes) because I don’t believe in paying interest,” said Sumblin, who lives in Southampton County’s Franklin District.

County Treasurer David Britt said it was a posting error by his office that resulted in Sumblin’s car being towed.

“It got resolved,” Britt said. “I’m sorry that happened. With anything, you’re going to have errors.”

Southampton County and the City of Franklin since late May have been working with Virginia Auction and Collections Co. to collect delinquent personal property taxes.

Treasurers sent 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 so it can’t be driven. If the treasurer’s office is closed, the vehicle will be towed. The towing fee is $200.

After leaving the bowling alley, Sumblin initially figured he had forgotten where he parked his car.

“I thought to myself, I must be getting old,” he said.

Then Sumblin reported his car stolen. Police gave him another phone number, which he called. That’s how he learned his car had been booted and towed for unpaid taxes.

“I’ve never been late with my taxes,” he said.

A semiretired plumber and electrician, Sumblin paid a friend from Hampton $45 to give him a ride home. After getting the matter straightened out with the treasurer’s office, he paid another person $45 to take him back to Chesapeake to get his car. He did not have to pay the $30 fee to have the boot removed or $200 for towing.

Britt noted that with other tax collection methods, errors are made.

“It’s just that this (booting cars) is more prevalent,” he said.