POINT PLEASANT — In January, Mason County Commissioners signed a contract agreement with a law firm to collect delinquent taxes.
The commission discussed the topic in 2019 and choose the firm of Bellomy, Turner and Bartram, LC to handle the collections.
County Administrator John Gerlach said the firm and county will begin to focus on collecting taxes owed by businesses — specifically the oldest amounts owed. Gerlach said after a tax amount is owed for five years, the county can no longer charge for that year. By collecting the oldest amount, it ensures the county will be able to collect that money before the debt is dissolved.
“(The attorney) is needed because at the end of the fifth year, they just go away,” Gerlach said. “We’re not allowed to collect them beyond five years.”
The county is focusing on businesses which owe taxes, because in West Virginia, if an individual doesn’t pay tax on their real estate, their property will be sold. If an individual doesn’t pay tax on their property, such as vehicles, they are unable to renew their license.
“Historically, the tax office has made calls and tried to remind people of delinquent property taxes,” Gerlach said. “Because if real estate taxes are delinquent, they just sell your property at auction and then you have the chance to redeem your property. But if personal property taxes are delinquent, if you’re an individual, … we can’t get our license the next year until the delinquent ticket is paid. That sort of takes care of the people who are non-business.”
In the contract with Bellomy, Turner and Bartram, LC, the lawyers will charge fees of 10 percent “of any delinquent taxes collected by letter or telephone call of tax amounts in tax amounts in excess of ($20,000).” They will charge 20 percent “of delinquent taxes if collected after filing a civil filing suit or claim; or by letter or telephone call for other delinquent tax recoveries of amounts under ($20,000).” Or, they will charge 30 percent “Of delinquent taxes if collected in claims made to Magistrate Court, Circuit Court or Federal Court which require motions of work, summary judgment, or trial, and the reimbursement of such expenses as in the sole discretion of the Mason County Commission …”
“That will come off the amount that they collect off the top, which means that the cost is shared proportionately among the people who are in the distribution of the ticket,” Gerlach said. “Ten percent will come off our share, 10 percent will come off the board’s share, and if it’s in the city, 10 percent will come off their share, then we will distribute.”
Gerlach said some businesses, depending on the total amount owed, will have the opportunity to agree to payment plans. The attorney may offer to set up a holding account until the business has the money to pay the oldest delinquent year in full.
“Really the whole idea behind this, is working with these (business owners),” Gerlach said.
The attorneys at Bellomy, Turner and Bartram, LC are currently drafting letters to be sent to business which owe taxes from past years.
Kayla Hawthorne is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.