Greensboro, NC -- Most of us go to work. We get a paycheck, minus the taxes that are taken out if it. And each year, we file our taxes by Tax Day.
But not everybody does.
More than 400 people in North Carolina made the list of delinquent taxpayers this year. However, that's just the list of worst offenders.
There are thousands of taxpayers in NC who owe more than $1.1 billion in unpaid taxes.
Dozens of those delinquent taxpayers have addresses in the Triad. But we quickly learned an address here doesn't mean much.
When WFMY News 2 started knocking on doors, we found some people had moved and others had passed away.
Out of six names and six addresses, we found just one person was where the NC Department of Revenue's list said she would be. However, she said the DOR was wrong.
"That's a misnomer. I get disability and they take out tax every month, out of my disability," said one taxpayer.
Something didn't quite add up. So we took our questions to Raleigh.
"Even though they're on a fixed income, the expectation in the end for all of us, is to pay our fair share," said Jerry Coble, Assistant Secretary of Revenue at the NC Department of Revenue. "The fact is, if they have $148,000 liability with the state, there's probably a very good reason why they owe that money...and they obviously may have had some money at some point in time."
But what about everybody else? That other five percent of taxpayers who still send their kids to school, still drive on state roads and don't pay their fair share and get away with it?
"It puts a financial burden on the remaining taxpayers to pay for essential state services," said Coble.
So what are the steps the DOR takes to track them down?
First, the DOR sends them at least one notice in the mail. If they don't get a response, they call them. Those are the ideal first steps.
But if the agency doesn't have the updated information, how do they expect to collect from them?
"That is a challenge. Our expectation is that this is a voluntary tax system. Taxpayers take the responsibility to contact us and work this out. Unfortunately, some taxpayers, when we notify that they have a liability, they will attempt to refuse to pay," said Coble.
"If a taxpayer is refusing to pay and refusing to file, we do have the option of taking that taxpayer to court and prosecuting the taxpayer," said Coble.
Since 2008, only 99 taxpayers have been charged with a criminal offense. Not only is it time-consuming, it costs the rest of us more money.
In the same vein, the DOR doesn't go after everybody who owes money. Coble said they have to prioritize.
"Are we doing enough? No. The question is, could we do more if we had more resources and more funds? Probably so," said Coble.
Coble said tax liens from unpaid taxes are displayed on credit reports. So if you're in the market to get a mortgage, buy a car or take out another loan, your unpaid taxes could come back to haunt you.
Coble said even though the delinquent tax money increased by about $100 million in the last year, they're actually making progress because the agency received over $800 million in new debt in the last year. So a substantial amount of the money owed to the state was collected by the agency.
Catch the story on WFMY News 2 Monday at 11.
WFMY News 2