Mississippi city OKs plan to seek millions in unpaid fines

December 24, 2019 GMT

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi city is going after state income tax refunds to recover unpaid fines due to the city.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday approved an agreement with Municipal Intercept Co. LLC to work with the Mississippi Department of Revenue to put a lien on an individual’s state income tax refund if they owe the city money, The Vicksburg Post reported.

Municipalities are authorized to take money owed for past due fines or other debts from a person’s state income tax refund under a bill approved in the 2018 session of the Mississippi Legislature.

City attorney Nancy Thomas said Vicksburg could use the law, for example, to collect money from property owners for cleaning property or demolishing buildings in violation of the city’s building codes.

“We’ve selected 50 people (who owe court fines) and we’ll see how it goes,” she said.

In 2018, according to city records, the amount of past-due fines totaled $3.9 million.

“In other words, if you owe the city, you need to pay up,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said. “If you don’t, we’re going to get it from you, one way or the other.”

Robbie Brown, deputy director of the Mississippi Municipal League, said Mississippi Intercept was created by the MML to help municipalities work with the Department of Revenue. He said cities will send information about the debts to Mississippi Intercept, which in turn sends it to the state.

Under the process, the city sends the debtor a letter reminding them the debt is past due and if not paid within 30 days the information will be sent to Mississippi Intercept and then to the Department of Revenue. If the debtor does not pay the debt and gets a tax refund, Brown said, “The Department of Revenue will take out whatever amount the debt is from the refund and send that to Municipal Intercept and Municipal Intercept will send it to the city.”

Municipal Intercept gets up to a 20% fee and the state gets a 5% fee for handling the debt, he said.

“The simplest way to explain it is if you have a $100 speeding ticket and you don’t pay it, you wind up paying $125,” he said.