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State tax collectors ramp up enforcement

Baseball great Satchel Paige once said, "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you."

That comment immediately came to mind today when I read about New York State's latest effort to get as much tax money as possible.

New York Gov. David A. Paterson told a joint session of the legislature yesterday that the state is "on the brink of a financial challenge of unprecedented magnitude" never before seen. One way Paterson has suggested to resolve the crisis is through budget cuts.

Empire State tax collectors, however, are taking a different approach. The New York Times reports that:

"Desperate for cash amid the worst fiscal crisis in years, New York State is pursuing tax debtors more aggressively than ever before, doubling the number of cases it is investigating and seeking to collect from delinquents ranging from JPMorgan Chase to an out-of-business convenience store on the Bowery."

The New York Department of Taxation and Finance is issuing tax warrants, public notices of delinquency that can make it harder to get loans or sell property and can lead to garnished wages or even forfeiture proceedings, at a record pace.

A nationwide enforcement surge: The rest of us -- OK, all of us except Californians who have their own special fiscal and tax problems -- can shake out heads and enjoy a little schadenfreude that the home state of the annoying World Series Champion Yankees is suffering such dire financial straits.

But that's probably not a good idea.

Not only did our mothers teach us better than to be so petty, but the truth is that plenty of other states are doing the same thing.

Improved disclosure laws and new technologies, says the Times, are enabling state revenue offices to to more easily find delinquents. The newspaper cites examples of increased tax enforcement in Illinois, Minnesota and Georgia.

So word to the wise. If you're a bit behind in your state tax payments, you might want to get your finances in order and soon. Your local tax collector is probably gaining on you.

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