Bettye Fine Collins urges Jefferson County taxpayers not to cash job tax refund checks

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County taxpayers may be out of luck.   Attorneys for the county say the ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday means the county can recollect any refunds coming out a $37.8 million escrow account.  

The occupational tax was declared illegal in 2009 and taxpayers were hoping for some sort of refund to cover the cost of the taxes paid during the time the tax was declared illegal.

"That doesn't sound fair does it? It sounds like they broke the law, now they want us to pay for their malfeasance," Mike Antonio, taxpayer said.

"Fair is fair. If it was struck down, we need it back. We shouldn't be charged to our legal fees without us charging them for their legal fees having to pay a tax we shouldn't have paid," taxpayer Marie Callaham said.

Taxpayers could be charged a higher bill than their refunds to cover the costs of legal fees for attorneys who won the case. That cost could be up to $13 million.  

"We are actually having to fight the taxpayer's lawyers to protect them to make sure they get their just due in court," Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot said.
Commission President Bettye Fine Colllins says taxpayers should not cash the checks if they do not want to be charged for legal costs. "Take those envelopes if they even get them and put it return to sender," Collins said.

Commissioner Bobby Humphryes, who is running for reelection, says the county should not go after the refunds. "They start sending out tax notices, I'm going to raise the most hell down here about them doing it. It's ridiculous we would even think about something like that," Humphryes said.
Attorney Jim McFerrin says the Alabama Supreme Court ruled taxpayers are due a refund. McFerrin says if the county wants to go after the refunds, they must get the legislature to give them the authority to do so.

"I think from a legal stand point the county cannot go back and collect their revenge tax," said McFerrin.

A court hearing before DeKalb County Judge David Rains is set Friday. Refunds are expected to be an issue of contention between both sides.

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