Woman asks Wichita to study time limit to collect on old debts

WICHITA, Kansas – Tammy Williams filed her tax return at the end of January, but three-and-a-half months later, she’s still missing her $436 Kansas refund due to an unpaid 16-year-old debt.

“I have no way to prove it,” she said. “I can’t prove if it was me, whether I paid it, because no one keeps receipts for 16 years.”

Last week, she finally got a notice from the state, saying the city of Wichita was taking $174.02 from her refund for an unpaid traffic citation from 1998 for driving without a license and no tail light.

“[You] have got to be guilty, but they just said, ‘No, you owe us, here you go, sorry we’re taking your taxes,'” she said. “So yeah, that really upset me.”

It’s a ticket she says she does not remember getting.

“I never received any letters, no notifications that I owed this,” she said. “Why would I have not paid it or went to court and said, here’s my driver’s license, proved I had a driver’s license, proved I fixed a tail light. Why would I not do that?”

City finance officials told KSN they began a concerted effort last year to take money for unpaid debts from Kansas tax refunds through the state’s set-off program, collecting more than 65-thousand dollars in 2013.

There is no statute of limitations in the city or state on collection of unpaid debts.

Officials say they pursue all debts over $25 equally regardless of how old they are.

So KSN went to Williams’ city councilman, James Clendenin, to ask if that should be changed.

“We should look into that and see if we can at least get her connected with the resources to get this cleared up,” he said.

Clendenin says the city will look into the practice to see if reforms can be made at the city level.

“If we have jurisdiction over it, we can look at an ordinance change and look into it, and our law department can help us with that,” he said.

It may be of little comfort to Williams, who still has to wait another four to six weeks for what’s left of her refund.

“That’s the unfair part about it, they’re taking advantage of the time,” she said. “You don’t let 16 years go by and say you owe me money. You can’t do that. It’s not fair. You can’t do that to people.”

Williams says she plans on picking up any records the city has on the violation Wednesday.

There is an appeal process available through the state’s program, and Williams says she will go through with it and see what happens.

Click here for more information on the Kansas set-off program.

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