Spruce Pine Town Council adopts Debt Setoff Program for unpaid taxes

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SPRUCE PINE – A program through the North Carolina Department of Revenue will allow the Town of Spruce Pine to be more efficient in its collection of unpaid utility or tax debt. 

The Spruce Pine Town Council at its regular meeting Monday, Oct. 28, unanimously approved the adoption of the North Carolina Local Government Debt Setoff Program for use by the town. 

The program requires the town to input a valid customer social security number, name and a past due bill amount greater than $50 that has been billed within the last few years. 

With those pieces of information entered, the town can receive payment for overdue bills via the individual’s state income tax return. The program also extends to North Carolina lottery winnings. 

Finance Manager Crystal Young said she expects the program to have an immediate positive effect on current past due accounts. 

She said currently, the town has about $6,000 in utility debts and about $10,000 in tax debts that would qualify for input into the program. 

Mitchell County, she said, uses the same program for their tax debt collection, so county taxes would be collected first if there is an overlap. 

There is no cost for the town to enroll in the program. The program funds itself by tacking on a $15 charge to debtors during the collection process. 

After collecting the necessary information, the town can begin the process simply by mailing a letter of notice to the debtor’s last known address. 

Once they are notified, the program takes over. 

Town Manager Richard Canipe said he anticipates the program will prove effective. 

“It’s not a get-rich-quick program,” Canipe said. “But, it will collect from some of these folks who still owe us.”