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Cash-strapped governments ramping up tax-collection efforts

Markham Heid
Washington Examiner
Oct 22, 2010

Tax officials throughout the Washington region are trying new and often extraordinary measures to collect tens of millions of dollars in delinquent payments, as huge projected budget deficits threaten to slash public services.

Together, Washington-area localities are owed more than $40 million in overdue real estate taxes from fiscal 2010 alone. Additional millions in unrecovered fines, fees and personal property tax revenues compound those shortfalls.

They say they have been able to maintain historically high collection rates, but only by resorting to unusually aggressive collection methods.

“We give people appropriate notice, but if they ignore us, we’ll just drive out to their house and remove their car from their driveway. That’s an attention getter,” said Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary.

O’Leary said he has used such tactics in the past, but lately has encountered a startling new phenomenon.

“This year I sent my people out to collect some vehicles, and they came back and said the properties had been abandoned,” O’Leary said. “That had never occurred in Arlington in all the years I’d been treasurer, and it was really sobering to hear that.”

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