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article imageOp-Ed: Guilty until proven innocent in Virginia? Special

By Renee Hendricks     May 17, 2010 in Politics
In a country where one of our basic tenets is that one is innocent until proven guilty, the state of Virginia and its taxation department proves that the opposite is true in their realm.
Imagine it is a few weeks before Christmas, and you open your pay stub envelope only to be greeted by a big fat zero for your bi-weekly paycheck. That is what J.K.P. (name withheld for privacy) was handed two years ago. Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a sudden and complete garnishment. And the joy did not stop there. J.K.P. was told another thousand would be taken from his next paycheck - a total of over $3,200. Joyous Noel!
After calming down and a bit of investigation on the part of this reporter, J.K.P. found that the state of Virginia tax department had made this garnishment for supposed state taxes owed in 1991 - not only an amount that was less than $100 but, as J.K.P. recalled, was owed to him. Since the state felt they were owed, 18 years of fees and interest were charged on top of the original amount, culminating in a total of $3,200. The Virginia state tax department had no records of anything paid or unpaid from that year. They simply stated to J.K.P. that he needed to prove that he either paid or did not owe for that year - quite simply put, the burden of innocence lay with J.K.P.
The Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Social Security do not keep tax records beyond 7 to 10 years. Your average citizen does not keep tax records longer than 10 years. What is more apparent is even the tax department in the state of Virginia does not keep records beyond the 10 year mark. Exactly from where was this proof supposed to come?
In a country where one of our basic tenets is all people are innocent until proven guilty, the state of Virginia clearly believes the exact opposite. If it were simply one case of this happening, this may not have been much of a story. But, according to several people dealing with the same financial attack, this is not the case. People all over the U.S. are being hit with this supposed old state tax being owed and citizens are paying for it in large numbers. Even military personnel have been affected by this tax nightmare. From what can be seen at this web site, the state of Virginia has no plans to stop this practice any time soon.
J.K.P. was one of the lucky few. He contacted his state representative in his resident state of over 10 years, Washington, and let the politicians duke it out. The outcome? After the VA tax department attempted to haggle the amount they felt was owed and J.K.P. rejected the offer, the entire amount garnished from all of his paychecks was refunded but without a single explanation or apology from the Virginia state tax department. Many others have not been so lucky.
C.A. (name withheld by request) lives in Arizona and has not lived in Virginia since 1994. She began getting threatening phone calls in 2008. By 2009, her paychecks were being garnished for a total of $3,000. She was forced to pay taxes that could not be proven to be owed to the state of Virginia. She was unable to move to a new firm for work until the alleged debt was paid and it has left her feeling like a deadbeat - for something she and the state cannot prove. She has not recovered this loss of money.
J.P. (name withheld by request) has never even lived in Virginia. Her home state is Massachusetts. A lien for over $8,000 was placed on her bank accounts. The state of Virginia tax department stated that the IRS had informed them that she owed back state taxes. The IRS denied this. With help from the IRS, J.P. was able to prove she never lived or worked in the state of Virginia, and she was able to recoup the money.
According to J.P., the entire time she dealt with the VA state tax department employees, they were rude and unapologetic. She had been 1 week away from taking her family on a vacation - one that had been planned out for 2 years - when her accounts were frozen. The resulting stress from this financial nightmare has caused her permanent nerve damage, and she has developed a tick.
Interestingly enough, J.P. contacted an attorney in the state of Virginia who, in turn, spoke with the Attorney General in Virginia. According to J.P., she was told that the state Attorney General had no sympathy and was more concerned about the increase in revenue to the state as a result of these tax liens and paycheck garnishments.
Christa Lee had just wrapped up a sale of her home when she received a notice from Diversified Collection Services (the collection service currently being used by the state of Virginia). The notice stated she had 30 days to pay back taxes owed to the state of Virginia dated from 1991. In 1991, Christa was a single mother making about $29K a year. The state owed her a refund instead of her owing the state. She is now being held responsible for the payment of $4,424.41. Her bank accounts and even her money market account were frozen due to a lien for this amount. As of the 13th of May, the entire amount has been drained from her personal accounts.
At the expense of $350, Christa has hired a CPA to help her with this fiasco. She is beyond angry and cannot believe that the state of Virginia can be allowed to arbitrarily and without proof seize money from innocent people. She has contacted her state representatives (she currently resides in New Jersey), her congressman, and several news agencies. Christa hopes that her story and the story of others calls attention to the commonwealth of Virginia and helps put a stop to what she (and many others) feel is complete robbery.
There seems to be a common theme throughout this story. The state of Virginia tax department is cutting as close as possible to their own 20 year statute of limitations, and the state seems to have no records on file regarding whether these citizens have paid or were owed state taxes.
At last check, Lisa Tortorella is the contact person within the state of Virginia's tax department. If you have been affected by this tax fiasco, contact her directly at (804)786-3332. Additionally, contact your local state representative and inform them of your situation as well as the stories of others printed here. This reporter can also be contacted directly if you would like further information.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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