In­come tax amnesty com­ing

Lorain pro­gram will run Feb. 1 through March 29

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - ICYMI - By Richard Pay­erchin rpay­[email protected]­ingjour­

Lorain tax­pay­ers who owe will have a chance to pay with­out penalty when the city holds its first in­come tax amnesty this year.

The amnesty pe­riod is a new ini­tia­tive to col­lect delin­quent in­come taxes, said city Trea­surer Terri Soto.

The city col­lects about $20 mil­lion a year in in­come taxes.

The amnesty ini­tia­tive is to en­sure that ev­ery tax­payer is aware of and con­tribut­ing to the fund­ing of city ser­vices that ben­e­fit every­one, such as po­lice, fire­fight­ers and street main­te­nance, Soto said.

Lorain City Coun­cil ap­proved the tax amnesty plan on Jan. 7.

The tax penalty amnesty will be Feb. 1 to March 29. For those who need to pay, it will be a chance to “wipe the slate clean” and en­cour­age fu­ture com­pli­ance, Soto said.

As the new year be­gins, peo­ple will be­gin think­ing about fil­ing their in­come taxes for the year past, Soto said.

“The rea­son why I picked now is be­cause every­one’s go­ing to get ready to start fil­ing 2018, so I fig­ured, they’re go­ing to start get­ting their re­fund, and be­fore they start spend­ing it else­where, they need to do their tax­payer re­spon­si­bil­ity and pay their lo­cal taxes,” Soto said.

The plan is part of a twopart ap­proach to boost city in­come taxes and com­ply with the law.

The first phase is vol­un­tary so tax­pay­ers can file re­turns and pay with­out penal­ties; pay out­stand­ing tax bal­ances with­out penal­ties; or pay a bal­ance of out­stand­ing penal­ties at a re­duced amount.

Soto es­ti­mated about 10,000 no­tices will go out to peo­ple who may owe in­come tax to the city.

The amnesty ef­fort will fo­cus on peo­ple who may owe for 2015, 2016 and 2017, al­though the city can go back to 2012 for col­lec­tion pur­poses, she said.

The se­cond phase will be a more thor­ough iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of non­com­pli­ant tax­pay­ers, Soto said.

The city In­come Tax Divi­sion will ac­cess fed­eral tax records through an agree­ment with the Cen­tral Col­lec­tion Agency of Cleve­land.

“This in­creases the city of Lorain’s abil­ity to iden­tify tax­pay­ers who did not file and/or pay the proper city in­come tax,” Soto said.

Delin­quent tax­pay­ers iden­ti­fied af­ter the in­come tax amnesty will be pros­e­cuted and held re­spon­si­ble for all penal­ties and in­ter­est.

Soto cred­ited the work of city Au­di­tor Karen Shawver. She be­gan con­sid­er­ing an in­come tax amnesty pro­gram dur­ing her term as city trea­surer, but was un­able to ar­range it be­fore be­com­ing city au­di­tor.

The plan gen­er­ally earned praise from Coun­cil, with Coun­cil­woman-atLarge Mary Springowski, Coun­cil­man Joshua Thorns­berry and Coun­cil­man-atLarge Mitch Fal­lis com­ment­ing.

“When a pub­lic of­fi­cial cre­ates a new ini­tia­tive it takes thoughts, it takes anal­y­sis, it strat­egy and it takes ex­e­cu­tion and those four items re­quire much ef­fort and en­ergy that a pub­lic of­fi­cial nor­mally doesn’t give in their job,” Fal­lis said. “So I com­mend Terri Soto for pro­vid­ing the ex­tra ef­fort and en­ergy to bring tax dol­lars through the tax amnesty pro­gram.”

It was un­clear ex­actly how much in­come tax the city could col­lect.

How­ever, Soto said an Au­gust 2018 ses­sion for tax­pay­ers who did not file their 2017 tax re­turns on time had a day with 892 peo­ple wait­ing for tax help at the of­fice.

The city col­lected $253,000 in taxes, late fees, in­ter­est and penal­ties in a 12-day pe­riod, she said.

Soto said she con­sulted with her coun­ter­parts in ci­ties such as Day­ton, Cincin­nati, Colum­bus and Lake­wood, which had tax amnesty pro­grams in the past. Ci­ties gen­er­ally have such pro­grams about once ev­ery 10 years, she said.

The In­come Tax Divi­sion will not hire ad­di­tional staff for the tax amnesty pro­gram, Soto said.


Lorain City Trea­surer Terri Soto, at up­per right, is among the city of­fi­cials gath­ered Jan. 7 for a city coun­cil meet­ing.

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