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Paying the tax man in Tusten; Auditor reports that despite delinquencies, town finances are in good shape

By Fritz Mayer
May 16, 2012

The Town of Tusten owes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $26,610.27 because of late payments and filings, but the auditor said he is confident that the agency will agree to abate most, or all, of that amount.

That was the word from Andrew Arias of Cooper Niemann & Company, who gave an audit presentation at the Tusten Town Board meeting on May 15.

He said there were “noncompliance issues” related to payment of withholding taxes for town employees last year, when former supervisor Peg Harrison was serving as both supervisor and bookkeeper. Arias said that some of the payments were made late; for instance, those for the first quarter were paid in November. Additionally, quarterly reports that were supposed to have been filed with the payments were never filed.

Because Harrison was serving both roles, which happened as she and the board battled over who would have authority to hire a new bookkeeper, Arias said his company had to undertake additional procedures this year during the audit.

He said, “We did not come across anything that that suggested that something was done illicitly or wrongly in the books, it was just that a lot of stuff wasn’t done timely,” so the town got hit with interest and late fees that were in the area of $36,000 to begin with, but the IRS agreed to abate $9407.59 of that so far.

He added that he believes that the IRS may agree to abate most, or perhaps all, of the rest of the amount. He said, “We’ll work with the IRS. This is a small town; you had issues with the bookkeeper. If you can show them this is a one-time thing, and we’re doing it correctly now, we feel we can get a lot of it abated. But it has to go through an appeal process, and we’re working on that now.”

Supervisor Carol Wingert said there was a similar situation with the money for the state withholding taxes, and interest and late fines were also imposed. To this point, the town has paid the state government $3880.60 and an additional $1000 fine has been assessed. Wingert said she is working with the state to attempt to have that abated as well.

Aside from the interest and penalties issued, Arias said the town is in good financial shape because officials have built up various reserve funds over the past several years.