Tax cheats, beware!

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  An effort to boost state revenue is targeting deadbeat taxpayers. Two proposals give the state Department of Revenue more muscle to go after those who fail to pay income taxes.

The first gives some tax agents law enforcement powers and the second allows the state to garnish wages of the employed who owe.

Both measures have passed the house, but the issue is serious enough to have the Department of Revenue's Commissioner at the Capitol this week, talking with lawmakers and encouraging the Senate to seriously consider the legislation.

The H&R Block tax office is busy.  With three weeks left until taxes must be filed, the state could soon be putting more pressure on those who miss the deadline or don't pay and tax preparers aren't surprised.

"Right now everyone is in a budget crunch right now so no I'm not surprised," said Clifton Bush, H&R Block District Operations Specialist. "

In an already strapped budget, lawmakers have scraped together $8 million to hire more auditors, examiners, and special investigators in an effort to ensure everyone pays up.

"If you're still unable to pay the full amount at one time you can call the Georgia Revenue Service and set up what they call an installment agreement to start paying the taxes you do owe," said Bush.

Going after delinquent taxpayers could bring in an additional $100 million in additional revenue, money our local government typically gets back in grants, but likely won't this year.

"We would see that in the form of reduced grants from the state and we're expecting this year that all of our state grants will be down a good bit," said Kris Newton, Albany Director of Finance. "Hurting both the city and county government that's already taken a hit in sales tax revenue, because many aren't buying big ticket items in a poor economy.

"We lost almost 13% last year compared to the year before.  This year so far we're down ten percent compared to last year, so that's a pretty strong drop," said Newton.

Lawmakers appear willing to go as far as garnishing wages or levying property to make sure the government is getting all it is owed. The Revenue Commissioner is telling state lawmakers that the new legislation will pay for itself once its up and running.

The legislation did make the crossover day in the legislature which is Thursday, and is expected to be considered by the Senate.