Alabama law allows local government entities—counties and cit-ies—to contract out certain government tax-auditing and collection func-tions to private, for-profit companies. Many counties and cities have cho-sen to do so, with results for some Taxpayers being very problematical.
Last year, in Act 2016-406, the Alabama Legislature required the es-tablishment of a toll-free hotline so that Taxpayers can submit complaints concerning the activities of such private firms. The Act, which took effect January 1, 2017, placed the responsibility of implementing the hotline on the Alabama Local Tax Institute of Standards and Training (ALTIST), which was established in 1998 to administer a certification program for private-firm examiners and collectors. (Act 2016-406 also required that the certification program include a course on “customer relations and profes-sional courtesy.”)
So, what becomes of a complaint once it is reported on the hotline? According to the Act, ALTIST must transcribe each complaint, and then, beginning April 1, prepare quarterly reports of complaints and forward those reports, with the transcripts, to the private firm who is the subject of the complaints. These reports “shall be made available” to the local gov-ernment entities that contract with that private firm. However, the reports are “otherwise … confidential” and are exempted from Alabama’s Open Records Act, which recognizes the right of citizens to inspect the public writings of this state.
In short, Taxpayer complaints will be routed through ALTIST to the private firm that caused the complaint. But there is no requirement in the Act that the private firm attempt to correct a problem or even respond to the Taxpayer. And the reports by ALTIST are only “made available” to local governments. The Act does not state that the reports “shall be pro-vided” to local governments. Thus, it is questionable whether a local gov-ernment will ever see any reports or Taxpayer complaints.
The toll-free hotline number is 1-855-638-7092.
Jeff Patterson LLC – www.jeffpattersonlaw.com
originally published as The Alabama Taxpayer’ Newsletter Issue 1-2017