February 16, 2010
JEOPARDY TAX COLLECTIONS
By: Mary M. Janicki, Research Analyst
You asked for information regarding state and local jeopardy tax collections.
Connecticut law allows state and local tax collectors to collect a tax that is assessed but not yet due when they believe payment may be jeopardized by a delay (i.e., jeopardy tax assessment). This authorization applies to any state collection agency, including the Department of Revenue Services (DRS), with respect to all state taxes, including the sales and use and income taxes. It also applies to local tax collectors who can apply a jeopardy tax assessment to real and personal property taxes. In each case, the language creating this authority is the same. It seems to be modeled on a provision in the Internal Revenue Service Code (Title 26, § 6861) that dates to enactment of the Revenue Act of 1924.
Typically, a tax collector makes a jeopardy assessment when he or she believes a taxpayer will be unable to pay taxes because of its financial situation or ownership status. The laws include provisions on their application and appeal procedures, but do not specify standards for determining when a tax payment might be delayed. Nor do published Connecticut court rulings address the issue of the standard for a tax collector's belief that a tax payment may be delayed. In the absence of a statutory definition or an available judicial opinion on the matter, we assume that the plain meaning rule of interpretation applies to the meaning of the word “believes” (CGS § 1-2z).
A state collection agent can collect any tax other than sales and use and income taxes before the due date when he or she “believes the collection…will be jeopardized by delay” (CGS § 12-36). The law gives the DRS commissioner the same authority with respect to:
1. state sales and use taxes (CGS § 12-417) and
2. the income tax (CGS § 12-729a).
According to a DRS Policy Statement, (“Your Rights as a Connecticut Taxpayer,” PS 2008 (4)):
You have the right to have all other collection actions attempted before a jeopardy assessment is issued unless delay will endanger collection. After a jeopardy assessment is made, you have the right to immediate review of the jeopardy assessment.
If DRS believes the collection of any tax will be jeopardized by delay, we may estimate your tax obligations for particular periods and assess and collect the tax immediately. These assessments are called jeopardy assessments. You may protest a jeopardy assessment and you may obtain a stay of collection of all or any part of the jeopardy assessment. To obtain a stay of collection, you will be required to post a bond or other acceptable security. If you disagree with the notice of jeopardy assessment, you may file a protest with our Appellate Division. … Your protest must be received within ten days or must bear a U.S. postmark that is within ten days after the date of the notice of jeopardy assessment.
The local jeopardy tax collection authorization, identical to state agency authority, allows a local tax collector to collect a tax “forthwith” when he or she “believes that the collection of any tax will be jeopardized by delay” (CGS § 12-163). He or she can do so between the assessment date and the date the tax is due. The tax collector must use an existing collection method. A taxpayer may protest a jeopardy assessment by obtaining a stay, posting a bond, and appealing to the board of assessment appeals or subsequently to a court.
The legislature adopted the jeopardy collection law as applied to local tax collectors in 1937 (§ 252d, 1937, Cum. Sup. 1939, § 342e), using language that has remained essentially unchanged. According to Finance Committee public hearing testimony, the bill was proposed “to catch what are known as fly-by-nights…” who move to towns “…before or after the assessment date and are gone before the collection date” (representative of the State Tax Collectors' Association, Middletown, March 11, 1937). The current president of the Connecticut Tax Collectors' Association, Corinne Aldinger of Newington, reports that the statute is most commonly used now when a tax collector learns that a company in the town is moving or when a delinquent taxpayer registers a new car after an assessment date and is asked to pay a tax bill due in July.
With respect to local property taxes, courts have ruled that the section applies to “any tax” including real estate and personal property taxes (Derby Savings Bank v. Kurkowski, 155 Conn. 60, 66 (1967)).