Revenue officers have been accused of targeting vulnerable citizens by demanding taxes on exempt Social Security payments.
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
Oregon revenue officers have been accused of targeting vulnerable citizens by demanding taxes on exempt Social Security payments.
An investigation by the Oregonian found the state has had 485 garnishments overturned since 2010. Taxpayers proved the Oregon Department of Revenue took the money improperly in those cases.
That’s likely a fraction of the number of impoverished taxpayers who have had the state swoop in to take money or threaten garnishment. Many, like Houck, are intimidated into signing repayment plans. Revenue department officials admit the agency does improperly seize assets, but contend it is rare and happens only because it doesn’t know a citizen’s assets are protected. Collections are integral to gather the billions of dollars the state needs to operate. Outraged consumer advocates this year turned to the Legislature, hoping for new restrictions that would better shield the poor from improper state collections. The legislation apparently is dead. A key legislative leader said House Bill 3172 isn’t necessary because the Revenue Department pledged to reform itself.
That will not reassure consumer advocates who have come to view the department as a hard-nosed bully: “I tell my clients the IRS is like your grandma, sweet and reasonable,” said Todd Trierweiler, a Portland bankruptcy attorney who has represented thousands of financially struggling Oregonians. “The Oregon Department of Revenue is like Guido the loan shark — they want to take your kidneys.”
The Oregonian investigation suggested the improprieties were in part traceable to high turnover among revenue officers.