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Jun 17, 4:13 PM EDT

Portland to use collections agency to go after arts tax


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Portland will now be able use an outside collection agency to go after people who don't pay the city's controversial arts tax.

About one in three people don't pay the annual $35 arts tax, which applies Portlanders who are 18 or older and make at least $1,000 in annual income, The Oregonian/Oregon Live (http://bit.ly/23gmYCn ) reported. The revenue pays for arts teachers and programs.

About 95,000 people owe $100 or more in delinquent arts taxes, and about 25,000 of them are at least $260 in debt, according to city officials.

The Portland City Council voted Thursday to allow the revenue office to send accounts that are at least $100 and one year overdue to a collection agency. Taxpayers would be given at least 30 days to respond to a final demand letter before a collection agency would be asked to step in.

"We expect many thousands to pay their delinquent taxes when we send a 'final demand' letter - so they would not all go to a collection agency," explained Thomas Lannom, director of the city's revenue division.

The council approved the change in a 3-1 vote. Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman cast the lone vote against the resolution, saying $100 was a low amount to refer to collection agencies.

"I think it often will mess with poor people's credit histories," said Saltzman. "This is only going to go after the people who are on the margins of life."

Commissioner Nick Fish pointed out that the tax was approved by voters and Portlanders had an expectation that it would be paid by everyone.

"We don't get to pick and choose what taxes we pay," he said.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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