Md. lists tardy taxpayers online

Maryland has posted the names of its top 50 tax delinquents online in an attempt to retrieve more than $9.7 million owed in overdue taxes, penalties and interest.

The majority of the 50 businesses and individuals owe upwards of $100,000, and the largest unpaid account is for $626,153. Before the delinquents were posted on the Comptroller of Maryland's World Wide Web site, each was notified by certified mail about their inclusion on the list and allowed to settle their account.

"It's a good inducement to get people to pay," said Michael Golden, spokesman for the Comptroller's Office. "We've tried all the usual methods, and none have worked, so we thought we'd try this method."

Golden said that the public posting of the list motivates people to pay their taxes simply to avoid embarrassment. Once an individual contacts the office to work out a payment plan, they will be removed from the list.

The public posting has already had an impact, Golden said. When delinquents were notified about the online list, the office collected more than $153,000 from seven respondents and received commitments from about 12 others.

For each account, a tax lien was filed in the Circuit Court where the taxpayers do business or own property, and thus there is a recorded court judgment that notifies other creditors of the state's claim.

The accounts were chosen because they don't seem to have a reason why they shouldn't be paid — none are in bankruptcy or on active payment plans to settle their debts.

The site will be updated about once a month, Golden said.

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