Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
A brilliant plan to hit scofflaws where it really hurts.
Oftentimes, public discussion of taxes is divorced from the reality that this money actually pays for stuff: schools, bridges, roads, etc. The act of paying taxes feels like a personal burden. But tax money is generally spent for the collective good.
Lest New York State tax scofflaws forget this fact, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a pretty brilliant new enforcement scheme this week: Residents owing the state more than $10,000 in back taxes may soon have their driver's licenses suspended. The logic?
"By enacting these additional consequences," Cuomo said in a statement, "we’re providing additional incentives for the state to receive the money it is owed and we’re keeping scofflaws off the very roads they refuse to pay their fair share to maintain."
The state Tax Department is about to send out 16,000 notices to people who collectively owe some $26 million. They'll have 60 days to get their act together. Then, after a follow-up notice and another 15 days, they'll have their licenses suspended until the debt is paid back or a payment plan is worked out with the state.
The idea is ingenious not just because driving privileges are so precious to many people, but also because the enforcement mechanism makes clear that people actually have to pay for all the transportation infrastructure we often take for granted.