JEFFERSON CITY | Missourians with overdue taxes may soon have more difficulty avoiding payment. Gov. Jay Nixon is a proposing a law that would let the state seize delinquent taxes directly from people's bank accounts.
The new powers are included among eight specific proposals Nixon has embraced for enhancing the Department of Revenue's ability to track down tax deadbeats and collect what the state is owed.
He is banking first that the legislature will approve the changes to state tax laws. Then he is banking that those changes will generate $22 million next year to help balance the budget and an additional $49 million in the 2012 fiscal year.
The tax-collection changes are one of several ways in which Nixon's proposed $23.9 billion operating budget depends upon future legislative actions. He is counting on Congress to come through with hundreds of millions of dollars of additional stimulus money. He is assuming state legislators will change Medicaid laws. And he is planning on Missouri lawmakers letting the state sweep millions of dollars of unused money from various special state funds into Missouri's general revenue pool.
"There's a good amount of money (in Nixon's budget) that is not really there at this time," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, observed with a touch of frustration during a budget briefing last week.
Many lawmakers still are not fully aware of the details of Nixon's proposals to increase state revenues, particularly those dealing with tax collections.
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Carl Vogel, R-Jefferson City, said Friday that he plans to sponsor legislation making Nixon's tax collection changes. But Vogel acknowledged that he wasn't familiar with the provision allowing the state to transfer money out of people's bank accounts.
Unknown perhaps to many Missourians, the Department of Social Services already has a similar power to seize money from people's bank accounts to collect overdue child support. That program works by periodically matching lists of bank account holders with a list of people behind on their child support payments. The banks participate on a voluntary basis.
Missouri sends its list of people with overdue child support to the federal government, which matches it with accounts held in banks that operate in multiple states. For banks that operate only in Missouri, the department contracts with Rhode Island to handle the bank-account matching, said Department of Social Services spokesman Scott Rowson.
But "it's really not a primary tool of ours," Rowson added.
Bank account transfers were used in about 7,000 of the agency's roughly 300,000 child support cases in the 2009 fiscal year, he said.