2011-04-06 / Front Page

City of Lapeer issues 25 arrest warrants for income tax evaders

BY JEFF HOGAN 810-452-2640 jhogan@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt understood that while few people like to pay income taxes, people need to understand it’s the law and the revenue raised through taxes is the funding mechanism in modern society that pays for police and fire protection, safe roads and most public services offered by municipalities.

The City of Lapeer is no different.

Exhausting all other options, and tired of being ignored by habitual evaders, the City of Lapeer at the guidance of its legal counsel and in conjunction with the local court system, has authorized the issuance of 25 arrest warrants for persons who are delinquent on paying owed income tax to the city in the amount of more than $1,000. In total, those sought in the first wave of arrests owe the City of Lapeer $55,830.

City manager Dale Kerbyson announced the city’s aggressive plan to collect the delinquent money at Monday’s city commission meeting.

The city’s Finance Department has in some cases sent four and five letters to parties that owe taxes, mostly individuals but including a few businesses, stating they are in violation and must make plans of payment.

“Some of the people owe for several years. We’ve tried everything else, but the law is the law and it’s not right that some aren’t paying when nearly everyone else does,” said Paul Boucher, director of financial services for the City of Lapeer.

Tim Turkelson, attorney for the city, said they didn’t want to overburden the courts and have agreed to issue arrest warrants in increments.

“We’re starting alphabetically and I a think the first batch is like A to D (last names)... Hopefully when they realize there’s warrants for their arrest they’ll turn themselves in,” said Turkelson. While there are other residents who owe less than $500, Turkelson said he wasn’t comfortable in targeting that segment yet until they can measure the success of the action against those who owe more than $1,000 to start.

Many of the violators, he added, are delinquent for multiple years. The majority of money owed is between $1,000 and $5,000.

Failure to pay income taxes is a misdemeanor violation, punishable by 90 days in jail or a $55 fine, or both.

Turkelson said there may be as many as 250 warrants issued for income tax evasion.

Kaye Hodges, income tax administrator for the City of Lapeer, said in total the city is owed $462,000 in delinquent income tax returns.

While sorry to see it come to this point, Lapeer city commissioners were supportive of the measure and hope the very knowledge that the City of Lapeer is serious about collecting on owed income tax will prod those in violation to come forward.

“My hope is that no one goes to jail for owing $1,000 in taxes, but it’s everybody’s duty to pay them,” said commissioner A. Wayne Bennett.

Hodges added, “People need to understand that if they owe $150 that they may get caught up in this too. No matter how much a person owes they have a legal obligation to pay them. I think some people thought they (owed taxes) would go away if they just kept ignoring them. That’s not the way it works.”

In other action Monday evening, the Lapeer City Commission introduced a motion to extend the city’s moratorium against medical marijuana facilities within the city another three months while its legal counsel and city staff draft a proposed ordinance to regulate the operation for the commission’s consideration.

The last moratorium extension is set to expire April 9.

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