TN county pays IRS more than $166,000 in late fees

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If you’re a Hawkins County resident and your local officials get on your case for not paying your taxes on time, well consider this — they’re late paying their taxes too.

And because of that, you and all of the other taxpayers in Hawkins County are on the hook for $166,886 in late fees and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a recently released audit from Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson.

According to the audit, the former school finance director, Myron Dale, failed to notify the IRS about deposits to a payroll tax account used to deposit employee payroll taxes.

Hawkins County officials didn’t pay their taxes on time, according to a new audit.

Dale was required to notify the IRS of these deposits, but he didn’t do that between November 2012 and March 2013, the audit said.

The account was a joint account with the county government and the Hawkins County School District.

“Consequently, the IRS did not withdraw the amounts deposited,” auditors wrote.

“The bank statements reflected large ending balances, but the balances were never investigated to determine the reason for those balances until notified of the penalty and interest assessments.”

Neither the county government nor the school district appropriated the money to pay late fees in their budget, the audit stated.

Tennessee Watchdog left a voicemail message with Dale, but he did not reply.

County Mayor Melville Bailey and school Superintendent Charlotte Britton also were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

School officials, however, responded in the audit by saying Dale no longer works for the school system. They also said they have opened a separate bank account specifically for federal tax deposits.

“The bank statement is now sent directly to the Board of Education to reconcile and verify monthly payments. A letter of appeal has been received and is being reviewed by the IRS,” school officials said.

The school system receives a portion, .90 percent of the county’s property tax rate of 2.345 percent, said Melissa Farmer, spokeswoman for the county mayor’s office.

County officials send out property tax notices in October of every year, and residents are expected to pay those taxes in March, said Debbie Lawson, spokeswoman for the county clerk’s office.

“If those taxes are late, then they go up 1.5 percent of the base of what you already owe the first month. They go up 3 percent in April and then 1.5 percent every month thereafter,” Lawson said.

“If you don’t pay your property taxes then county officials can sell that property,” she said.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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