Counties Wary of Prohibiting Valuable Tool to Collect Unpaid Taxes

On February 28, 2023, Associate Policy Director Sarah Sample submitted a letter of information to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee for SB 594 – District Court – Small Claims – Enforcement of Money Judgments.

The House Judiciary Committee considered the bill’s cross-file, HB 127, on January 25, and has since issued a favorable report.

SB 594 prohibits the Maryland District Court from ordering the appearance of an individual to answer interrogatories in the execution of a money judgment. Though the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) takes no position on the merits of this legislation, the language used would result in an overly broad moritorium on important tools counties employ to collect unpaid property taxes. SB 594 and its cross-file are primarily designed to end the practice of body-attachment warrants, though these tools are often used as a last resort. Most cases end well before the Court would consider issuing a warrant, but when counties lose the ability to order these appearances, both parties lose the opportunity to discuss the terms of debt collection with any presumption in favor of the individual in question.

From the MACo Testimony:

Simply put, without [body-attachment warrants], the county would be left waiting for payment someday with no other mechanism to hold a defendant accountable. The defendant would therefore have no incentive to pay the judgment or be cooperative because there are no repercussions, and the county would be left with a judgment that is completely unenforceable. Uncollectible taxes translate to unwanted outcomes for county residents – either abridged public services, or increased tax burdens on those who fulfill their obligations.

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