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Merlo, Accountant
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 9783
Experience:  25+ years tax consulting. Specializing in returns for US citizens living abroad
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I have not lived in Virginia for 18 years. Virginia, about ...

Customer Question

I have not lived in Virginia for 18 years. Virginia, about a week ago, called me to "collect" @$3,000, claiming I owed a small amount of income tax for 1990, that interest has been accruing ever since, and that I never filed. The collections person told me I would have to "prove" I filed, so I asked her to prove I didn''t file. I do not have my income tax returns from 18 years ago, and frankly, this is grossly unfair. Originally, she told me the amount I owed -- a little under $300 -- and when I asked her to repeat the amount, she told me she never stated the amount. She told me also that Virginia had tried to contact me in the past. I have lived in only a handful places, two of which were homes I owned in Maryland, since 1990. I have never received any notice from Virginia.   Can they collect from 18 years ago? This seems grossly unfair.
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Tax
Expert:  Merlo replied 9 years ago.


First, let me try to explain why they could conceivably try to collect from 18 years ago. The statute of limitations normally goes back to a starting date of when you first filed your tax return. However, if you never filed a return for the year in question, then there is no statute of limitations on that particular year. They can go back as far as they want to go back and try to collect the taxes due.

Having said that, I think your first step should be to side-step the collection agency and contact the State of Virginia Department of Revenue directly to find out exactly what transpired that makes them think you owe this debt. If you find that they really do have a legitimate claim for past due taxes, then you can try to work out a payment plan with them or even an offer in compromise, if they are willing to accept a lesser amount than what they claim you owe them. It is difficult to give much more advice than that beyond this point until you can determine the nature of their claim, but that would be your best starting point.

If this answer was helpful, kindly press the "Accept" key. Positive feedback is also greatly appreciated. Thanks for the question and good luck to you in resolving this issue.

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Customer: replied 9 years ago.
I freak out when it comes to any "past due tax". I'm aware there's no statute on an unfiled return, but I would never have knowingly neglected to file a return, or let a debt so small fall by the wayside, let alone allow it to accrue to $3,000 over a period of 18 years. I asked how I could contact the state, and she told me I had to go through her! Ack! So, thank you, XXXXX XXXXX my belief that I need to contact their tax department ASAP and no longer deal with "collectors".
Expert:  Merlo replied 9 years ago.

Hello againCustomer

I understand totally what you mean when you say it makes you uneasy to receive past due notices, particularly when they are telling you that you have 30 days to respond, "or else". But keep in mind that this is a collection agency that you are dealing with at this point and not the actual state of Virginia. Collection agencies will use whatever "scare tactics" they think will work to collect a debt, because that is how they make their money. But it is highly unlikely they are going to take you to court over a $3,000 debt, and if they did, it would certainly not be in the next 30 days. I hope this helps put your mind at ease somewhat.