GREEN BAY - The state of Wisconsin might have better luck getting delinquent taxpayers to pay up, if the system to pay--the tax code--were updated. And some legislators are pushing for a change.
Right now more than 20,000 people and businesses make up Wisconsin's Delinquent Taxpayers List. But the list is published online by the state's Department of Revenue in an effort to help shame taxpayers into paying up.
Revenue Secretary Richard Chandler says the amount owed fluctuates between $800 and $900 million.
"A lot of times it's just impossible. The people don't have assets, they're not somewhere we can locate them," said Chandler.
So who's to blame for the millions in unpaid taxes every year? Aside from those who actually owe the money some say it's the legislature for not making the process to pay easier.
"I think that some of the delinquent taxes out there are because our tax code is complex so when people make mistakes they actually didn't know any better and so you have these delinquent taxes out there," said State Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Milwaukee).
Kooyenga is the only certified public accountant sitting on the state's Joint Finance Committee. He is recommending sweeping changes to the state's tax code that he says would increase collections but lower taxes.
"If you have a more reasonable tax code in the first place you're going to have less mistakes, less taxes due and let's collect that money when it's due opposed to year's later in court cases," said Kooyenga.
"We've done a number of things to try and simplify our tax code and certainly willing to look at additional steps along those lines," said Chandler.
But since legislators are responsible for adding provisions making the tax code more complicated over the years, Todd Berry with the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says it will take a revolt from taxpayers to see a major difference.
"If state lawmakers' phones, the governor's phone, rang off the hook for the next two months with people saying, "This is getting ridiculous, let's just have a simple tax law," said Berry.
Berry says when others don't pay the money they owe, eventually taxes go up for the rest of us.
The current number one offender is Baxter Healthcare Corporation out of Deerfield, Ill. It owes $5.6 million. The company says it's due to a tax return error and will be correcting the problem. But as of now (April 21, 2013) remains on the list.
In fact four of the top eight offenders are located out of state. State officials admit collecting about $400 million of the amount currently owed will be difficult if not impossible.
"We do have an estimate out there of 800 to 900 million of an amount that is theoretically owed. But a lot of that is owed by taxpayers who have passed away or moved out of state or businesses that are bankrupt," said Chandler.
So if you would like to express your views to area legislators, we have the phone numbers and emails you need in the attached links.
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