WARREN Official discusses incorrect tax rate

Many changes are in the works for the city's income tax department.
WARREN -- Some area businesses withheld city income taxes from employees' checks at the wrong rate for part of 2001.
While talking at an informal city council finance committee meeting Tuesday, Thomas Gaffney, the city's new income tax administrator, said he couldn't give an estimate of what's owed the city because of the error.
He did say it appears as though there were several instances that employers withheld at the 11/2 percent rate in effect through May, when voters approved a 0.5-percent income tax increase.
In those cases, officials think outside payroll companies were used by the businesses and did not switch over to the 2-percent rate, Gaffney said.
What's being planned: The city income tax department plans to contact the companies in question and see what can be done to recoup the money, officials said.
Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at-large, is a former city police officer who works in Warren for Pinkerton Consulting and Investigation0s, which is headquartered elsewhere.
He said his company failed to take Warren income taxes from his check for all of 2001.
The city must be losing "tons" of money from errors such as these, Fonce said.
The income tax department is also reviewing methods to reduce the number of tax delinquencies, including the use of collection agencies and stepped up enforcement.
In the works: A tax amnesty program that forgives interest and penalties is in the works to encourage delinquents to pay up during a certain time period.
Gaffney serves under new part-time Treasurer John Taylor. Both have been charged with overhauling the department to maximize collections.
"I've been here five days," Gaffney said of his new job. "There's a lot of work to be done."
A new tax registration form is being drafted and tax ordinances are being reviewed to determine if rates for penalties and interest are comparable with other communities.
Job descriptions of those working in the income tax department are being looked at and will be rewritten or changed with help from the employees' union, officials said.
Other improvements will be made in coming months to ensure the department is run efficiently and that the city collects what it's owed.
Also, Gaffney said, "One of the things we're going to try to enhance is our customer service."

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