If you have an unpaid bill in a municipality or a county, your state income tax return may be garnished to pay off the debt.
However, before municipalities and counties act on it, they want to be sure they completely understand the law as written.
In Kilmichael, Mayor Bobby Howell told the board of aldermen Tuesday night the Mississippi Municipal League has been working on this bill for over three years now, as a way to collect on outstanding debts.
House Bill 991 states, “A local government may submit a debt owed to it for collection under Sections 1 through 12 of this act. A local government that decides to submit a debt owed to it for collection under Sections 1 through 12 of this act shall establish the debt by following the procedures set forth in Section 6 of this act and shall submit the debt through a member organization. Sections 1 through 12 of this act only apply to a debt that is at least Fifty Dollars ($50.00) and refunds to which the debtor is entitled of at least Fifty Dollars ($50.00). Different types of debts under Fifty Dollars ($50.00) may be combined to satisfy the debt threshold if they are owed by the same debtor.”
Meaning the debt collected by the county or municipality can’t be below $50, and it can’t be more than the debtor’s state income tax refund.
“I asked Lane [Greenlee] to take a look at it and to report back to us at the next meeting,” Howell said. He said if a debtor has an unpaid bill with the municipality or county, they can make a lien against the debtor’s state income tax.
“There are some expenses that come along with this bill. If they want to appeal you have to have a hearing,” Greenlee said. “You’d have to have a hearing, get a judge, bring in an attorney, bring in a court clerk.”
The bill states: “A debtor who decides to contest proposed setoff shall file a written request for a hearing with the local government within thirty (30) days after the date the local government mails a notice of the proposed action to the debtor. A request for a hearing is considered to be filed when it is delivered for mailing with postage prepaid and properly addressed as required in the notice provided by the local government. The governing body of the local government or a person designated by the governing body shall hold the hearing. In a hearing under this section, any civil or criminal issue that has been litigated in a court proceeding cannot be reconsidered.”
According to the law, if a person feels that their state income tax was garnished incorrectly or it is something they have already paid, they can appeal it. For towns like Kilmichael, it could be expensive because they don’t have a municipal judge, and having to bring in one for a hearing could be costly.
Greenlee said there were some particulars to the law and an attorney at his office, Kelsey Dismukes, has been reading on the law and the two will report what they’ve gathered from the law in November.
“You may pick up a few,” Greenlee said.
Public Works Superintendent Johnny Pearson said there are some outstanding water and gas bills left from when people “pick up and move” and don’t pay the remaining balance they owe.