MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in support of legislation (HB 115) that would repeal the termination date for the Warrant Intercept Program before the House Ways and Means Committee on February 6, 2019. The Program allows for the withholding of income tax refunds for individuals with outstanding warrants. The refunds are released if the individual turns themselves in. The legislation was sponsored by Delegate Teresa Reilly.
The Program has been an effective partnership between the counties who have been piloting the program and the Comptroller’s Office. The program provides a safe and controlled process for individuals with outstanding warrants to be notified about the warrants and to turn themselves in to law enforcement. In counties that opt into the program, the Comptroller informs individuals about their outstanding warrants and may withhold their tax return until law enforcement indicates the warrant has been satisfied. The program is currently set to sunset on September 30, 2019. HB 115 would repeal that sunset, allowing the program to continue indefinitely and affording the ability for additional counties to opt into the program.
Currently, six counties are fully active in the Program: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Harford, Howard, Prince George’s, and Washington. Charles County has just entered the Program and if HB 115 passes, Frederick County is also interested in participating.
From MACo’s testimony:
The Maryland Income Tax Refunds Warrant Intercept Program 2017 Annual Report notes that [the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention], in consultation with the Comptroller’s Office, recommends continuing and expanding the program; counties strongly agree. It saves law enforcement from confronting individuals with outstanding warrants in potentially hostile environments and offers those individuals a means of turning themselves in after making proper arrangements and without public embarrassment.
Numerous county sheriff departments also testified in support of the bill. The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition testified in opposition.
The Senate cross-file (SB 109) was heard by the Budget and Taxation Committee on January 30.