What’s good for the goose

Published 8:59 am Wednesday, June 29, 2011

There has been much discussion in recent weeks regarding the decision by Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight treasurers to more aggressively collect a backlog of unpaid taxes, with much of that discussion having taken place right here on the pages of The Tidewater News.

News stories have chronicled the complaints of some who have been given the boot for unpaid taxes, while also pointing out how wildly successful the program has been in generating much- needed tax revenue for our local governments. We have endorsed the program in this space and believe it to be, on balance, an effective and justifiable way of collecting back taxes.

Yet the program has not gone off without a hitch. Last week, a Southampton County man’s vehicle was towed from the parking lot outside a Chesapeake bowling alley. Because it was late at night, he was forced to pay $45 for a ride home and another $45 two days later for a ride back to Chesapeake to get his impounded vehicle.

His taxes, by the way, were current. A clerical error of some sort had put him on Southampton County’s equivalent of Santa’s naughty list.

It would be easy in this case for the county to throw its hands up and innocently proclaim that mistakes happen. Indeed they do. However, those who mistakenly failed to pay their taxes on time are having vehicles booted and towed, while being charged stiff late penalties and towing fees.

We feel the county should be held to the same level of accountability it holds for its delinquent taxpayers.

In this case, it was the government’s mistake that caused the gentleman to have his vehicle towed. We hope that, if they haven’t already done so, county officials do the right thing. They should reach out to the impacted vehicle owner and reimburse him for his travel expenses and considerable inconvenience. It would be the height of hypocrisy if they don’t.