License suspension measure catches attention of 18 county tax evaders

Considering tax evasion?

Think again.

Eighteen Chautauqua County residents who owed $10,000 or more in overdue taxes have had their driver’s licenses suspended due to a new law that targets tax delinquents.

Signed in August by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, this “tough love” law has already affected 8,700 New Yorkers and reportedly increased tax collections by approximately $56.4 million on a state and local basis.

Moreover, 6,500 taxpayers who owed money before have either paid in full or are starting to make payments on their debt.

“We think (the law) has been very effective because it brought a lot of people to the table,” said Cary Ziter, spokesperson for the Department of Taxation and Finance. “The motivating factor is not to get to the point of suspending a person’s license. The motivating factor is to try to increase voluntary compliance so that we all pay our fair share of taxes in a timely manner.”

Larry Barmore, Chautauqua County clerk, acknowledged that the law is a “good way to get your attention” if you owe taxes. However, by taking away driver’s licenses, it could potentially harm an individual’s ability to pay taxes in the first place since it prevents them from driving to work and earning an income, he said.

The process begins with the Department of Taxation and Finance identifying tax delinquents who owe $10,000 or more in taxes. A notification letter is sent and a 60-day period is given for the taxpayer to pay their debt or arrange a payment plan.

For those who do not comply after 60 days, another notification letter is sent by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The taxpayer is given an additional 15 days to comply.

If both notification letters are ignored after the 75-day time period, driver’s licenses are revoked.

“There are multiple conversations with the taxpayer (before it comes to the point of a license suspension). It shouldn’t come as a surprise,” Ziter said. “If you feel that you’re in a tax liability situation, the thing to do is contact the Tax Department and try to work out a payment plan.”