Geraldine collects owed debts, fees from state taxes

Northeast Alabama

GERALDINE, Ala. – Geraldine residents who owe outstanding debts to the town may get a rude awakening after getting their state tax refund. The owed fees could be taken out without the person’s permission.

For the first time, the town of Geraldine is taking advantage of a 2014 Alabama State Legislature amendment called the Municipal Intercept Services (MIS) which allows municipalities to collect fees owed to them through state tax refunds.

“We can collect fines and fees and judgements and ordinance violations and library fees,” said Geraldine Mayor Chuck Ables. “All we have to do is send the name, social security number, and the type of debt and the amount of debt, and then if that person is due an income tax refund, then they will collect that money for us out of that.”

The town council unanimously approved the fee collection at their last meeting after a lot of discussion. 

“I just felt like it was our responsibility to our citizens that elected us to do the best we can with the money we have. It is for debts that are owed to us and I feel like we owe it to our citizens to do everything we can to collect the debts that are owed to us,” explained Ables.

Frothy Dog Coffee Company owner Phillip Dooley told News 19 he thinks the decision could benefit the town and its residents.

“I do think it’s probably a good thing because most of our small towns are strapped for money and I’m opposed to raising taxes, so if this helps not raise taxes to try to bring in revenue for people that owe revenue, I think I’d be behind that,” Dooley said.

Ables explained that the town leader would use discretion, though, because they understand the COVID-19 pandemic has caused problems for many residents.

“If we know of someone who is really struggling, out of a job, and they’re trying to make payments, we’re not going to send those names in. This is for ones that we feel like have the opportunity,” Ables said.

“I do believe that we’re under a moral obligation to pay the things that we owe because they’re usually payment for services of some kind. I will say this: this is a rough time. COVID-19, a lot of people out of jobs, not able to go in and do the things they normally would and I certainly think our towns municipality should take that into consideration,” said Dooley.

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