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Tax Day is quickly approaching, and I’d like to remind those who live or work in Lansing that it’s also time to file and pay city income taxes. By city ordinance, Lansing residents are required to file a City of Lansing tax return and pay 1 percent of their income regardless of where they work. Non-Lansing residents who also work in the city are required to file a city tax return and pay 0.5 percent of their income. Though the amount owed per person may not seem substantial, when totaled this money makes a huge difference in our ability to provide the city services that our residents, workers and visitors expect.
Talking about taxes is critical.
Ensuring that the city has revenue to provide services means sharing that cost among those who live and work in Lansing. Unfortunately the city is owed approximately $7.5 million dollars in past income tax revenue. This money is critical to be able to provide essential services to our residents, workers and visitors. If the city were to collect this money we could fund 15 miles of road projects, hire additional police officers, replace and fix emergency vehicles and many other important projects that residents and visitors are asking to be completed. It’s easy to talk about these big, visible services, but everybody who lives or works in Lansing expects that their toilets will flush when they use the bathroom. It may seem like a small thing until toilets don’t work.
We hear from residents or workers that they’ve gotten a notification from treasury years later. How does our income tax process work? The Treasury Office sends multiple notifications and reminders throughout the collection process for income tax returns. Residents that have filed a State of Michigan tax return but have failed to file a City of Lansing tax return receive at least three notices in their mailbox before legal action is taken.
Violations of the city tax ordinance is considered a misdemeanor by law, and after many reminders from the city, we will put a warrant out for arrest if the resident still fails to comply. Following the three notices received by mail from compliance, residents will receive an arrest warrant letter.
Right now, there are approximately 1,315 outstanding arrest warrants for those who owe income tax money. They’re breaking the law, and it’s not fair to the people who are paying their income taxes. Income tax revenue is a critical piece of improving our city services. If you live or work here, you’re helping to pay for critical services like into police protection and, fire protection.
In my budget proposal I proposed hiring two additional employees in the Treasury Office to supplement current work that the City Attorney’s Office and the District Court are conducting to enhance tax collection efforts.
If approved by the City Council, the two new employees will be a full-time treasury investigator and a full-time customer service representative. These positions are crucial in the collection and payment process of all income tax and property tax.
We know there are those in our community who struggle to pay taxes, and we have a tremendous social service program. We never want someone to choose between putting food on the table and paying their taxes. Our Treasury Office will work with those who need extra help by offering a variety of payment options and payment plans. Since 2016, a total of 1,413 income tax accounts have been paid in full thanks to payment plans.
In order to continue to improve our services, replace and repair our aging infrastructure and provide quality programs to visitors and residents alike, we need to ensure that we are collecting all available revenue. Nobody likes paying taxes, but we expect services in a vibrant community. It takes all of us.
If you live or work in the city and want to check your status, please visitwww.lansingmi.gov/warrants. If you do not have a warrant out for your arrest, but are unsure of whether you owe the City of Lansing income taxes, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, phone number and last 4 digits of your social security number to find out. For additional information, call the Mayor’s Office at 517-483-4141.
(Schor is the mayor of Lansng.)