To the Editor:
I am sending a letter to Tina Timberman, Athens city income tax administrator. The following is an excerpt to share what the "green envelope" has done to my life these last six weeks. I am certain others will be able to relate. The assumption that all city of Athens residents are familiar with the city income tax form is a mistaken one, and we are not all "evaders."
For more than 20 years, I have lived in the city of Athens, and for 15 of those years, I was employed by Ohio University. In recent weeks, I have learned I never saw an Athens City Income Tax form because the tax was automatically taken out of my pay. I did not file a return all those years because it was not required. For the record, I have always had my taxes professionally prepared by either H&R Block, or more recently, the Ohio University Credit Union.
In 2008, I began my employment as an associate professor at Hocking College. On my online pay stubs, I could see an "Athens local" tax was coming out of each pay period. I assumed all was as it should be, and no one, including anyone from the city of Athens, ever indicated to me otherwise.
Then, in early January of this year, I received this ugly green envelope from a Cleveland Collection Agency and a very poorly constructed letter, dated with the wrong year. It ordered me to send all my personal tax information, dating back to 2006. I first thought it was a joke or an attempt to scam personal information, and I came very close to shredding it. But just to be certain, I tried to contact the Athens City Income Tax Office; my call was immediately transferred to the CCA, and thus, my ordeal began.
Long story short: the Athens "local" taxes taken from my paychecks at Hocking were for Athens City School District Tax only, not Athens City Income Tax. Question: If two separate tax-preparing businesses located within the city of Athens did not know to advise me that it was necessary to file an Athens City Income Tax form, how should I have known the difference?
My point is that the mistake was indeed an honest one – for me, for my tax preparers. It has been rectified with my $2,000 in back payments with penalties and interest covered by my tax preparer firms. (Timing of all this has been awful for them, too, in the middle of federal tax season.) Now, March property tax is just around the corner for us city residents.
Trust me, I would have responded to a simple phone call or letter from the Athens City Income Tax Office years ago. I only wish I had been given the chance!