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Skip your tickets, the state skips you

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 26, 2009 7:30 AM

Pay your fines or lose your tax refund, because the state of Iowa is cracking down on overdue court fines and fees. Thanks to a computer-software upgrade, some Iowans won’t see their tax refunds. Instead, they will see letters in their mailboxes from the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, informing them that to cover unpaid fines and fees, their refund is being withheld. According to reports, the state has been collecting overdue court fines and fees using income-tax offsets for the past 15 years, but with the new software upgrade, city officials can now dig up fines and fees from more than a decade ago.

Fines are no big secret. Parking tickets can be found fluttering in the breeze beneath windshield wipers, and even though they may eventually make their way into the odds and ends drawer or get tossed in the trash with the junk mail, those who have received them know they exist. Ignoring these fines or pretending that they don’t exist doesn’t make these fines magically disappear. The idea is simple: Pay your fines, and you’ll get your tax money.

Overall, using the software upgrade to make those habitual fee dodgers pay their dues is a good idea. Give the state its money, and we won’t see a spike in taxes as a result of those delinquent fines and fees. Those people who do pay their fees don’t deserve to be punished because of others who put off dealing with the stack of parking tickets they’ve accumulated over the years. You get them, you pay them — it’s as easy as that.

Plus, new technology itself is a sure-fire way to make our government more efficient. Many public records that we would have otherwise not been given access to are now available online. From their personal computer, people can view things such as criminal records, court records, and birth and death records.

Even paying court fines and fees doesn’t require quite the effort that it once did. With Internet access and a debit or credit card, these fees can be eliminated within a matter of minutes. Those people with fines and fees don’t even have to waste a stamp or lick an envelope to mail in their payments anymore. And they no longer have to make special trips to government offices to resolve them. With the click of a mouse, people can wipe their slates clean.

The state has the right to collect its money. And unfortunately for those people who have fines and fees that are years past due, there is no statute of limitations on collecting the fines. Those people who’ve considered themselves lucky because they’ve dodged their debt to the state for so many years are now in for a surprise.

So if you see a parking ticket hiding underneath your windshield wiper one day after class, work, shopping, etc., heed the warning. If you have court fees, take care of them. Pay your dues to the state before the fine becomes delinquent and the state uses its upgraded software to come after you. That way, you’ll get your refund, and the state will get its money.


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