Uniontown owes thousands in payroll taxes

Published 5:18 pm Saturday, July 12, 2014

UNIONTOWN — The Internal Revenue Service could soon begin seizing property from the city of Uniontown because of a hefty debt the city owes the agency for late, underpaid or unpaid payroll taxes.

During a public forum Wednesday evening, Mayor Jamaal Hunter and city councilwoman Dr. Vera Davis announced the city currently owes $551,640.52 to the Internal Revenue Service in unpaid payroll taxes.

“I wanted the citizens to know when they see something in the paper saying the IRS is seizing the property of the City of Uniontown, this is why,” Davis said.

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Hunter said the vast majority of the debt was accumulated during fiscal year 2007 and 2008, before Hunter took office in October 2008.

“When I took office in 2008, we had a debt with the IRS of $700,000 to 800,000,” Hunter said. “It must be paid. It has to be paid.”

While the debt has decreased significantly since Hunter took office, the problem has not been completely solved.

Hunter said roughly $33,000 has been added to the debt since he took office because several quarterly payroll tax statements were filed late.

Hunter said Alfreda Washington, who was city clerk at the time many of the payments were missed or filed after deadline, is still working for the city in the same role today.

“I have total faith in her, and we have worked through this issue to make sure the payments are sent when they are supposed to be sent,” Hunter said.

“We have a schedule we follow to make sure the payments are being sent and the confirmations are being kept on file.”

Hunter said the city has been on a payment plan with the IRS since he took office, which has helped lower the total amount owed. Unfortunately, the city has run out of time to pay back their debt.

“The IRS is now running out on the statue of limitations to collect this money,” Hunter said. “Once the initial period to collect is over, if they can’t collect on it, they get aggressive.”

According to the website for the IRS, the agency has several options to collect on unpaid debt.

Because of federal disclosure laws, IRS media specialist Dan Boone was not able to speak about the Uniontown case in particular.

One option the agency has to collect on the debt is to seize property, something Hunter said the city has prepared to deal with.

“We, as a council, have actually looked at our properties, what we are not using, and we pretty much communicated with the IRS about the parcels we have that could be sold and used to help pay the tax liabilities,” Hunter said.

Admitting he did not have a list of those properties in front of him Friday, Hunter said the majority of them were of little importance to the city.

“The properties we have set aside, the city is not using and we can’t find anyone to buy them,” Hunter said. “All of that helps to eliminate the tax debt.”

Davis said she wants the public to understand the debt is being dealt with, and to be patient as Hunter and the city council work to completely eliminate it.

“There’s not an easy fix,” Daiv said. “If we had the money lying around, I’d be the first to say we should use the money to pay off this debt so we don’t lose some property.”

Hunter said he is aware that property may not be enough to pay off the debt. He said he would continue to work with the IRS to pay off the debt.

“We will continue with a payment plan that will allow us to get out of debt in a reasonable amount of time,” Hunter said.