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State child-support collection hike will likely benefit county

A report earlier this week concerning an increase in the amount of money the state of Ohio is collecting from the income tax refunds of deadbeat parents will almost certainly have a positive impact on Lawrence County families.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

A report earlier this week concerning an increase in the amount of money the state of Ohio is collecting from the income tax refunds of deadbeat parents will almost certainly have a positive impact on Lawrence County families. The question is how much?

Earlier this week, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services reported that parents who are owed back child support payments will collectively get $55 million more than anticipated this year, thanks to a program that collects back payments from deadbeat parents’ federal income tax refunds.

A new computer system that went online in October of 2000 retrieved the names of more deadbeat parents who were due refund checks than what the state had previously collected, meaning more money could be recovered from these parents and eventually forwarded to their ex-partners and children.

Buddy Martin, director of Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services says he has not read the report and does not have concrete figures about what amount of additional money his clients can expect to receive.

"These people (deadbeat parents) have to be entitled to receive a refund first. And then what we get depends on how large a refund they were entitled to get," he said

Martin says, historically, Lawrence County gets about one percent of any state monies collected under any program. One percent of $55 million is approximately $500,000, an increase from the $300,000 the county usually receives from the state.

But Martin advised he does not have any figures on what new amount was identified as being collectible from Lawrence County deadbeat taxpayers. "It’s almost risky to make a guess," he said.

Martin says in order to collect refund monies from deadbeat parents, the county submits to the state the names of parents who are behind on their child support payment by at least $125.

The state in turn submits the names to the Internal Revenue Service to match against the list of people who are supposed to get a refund tax check from the federal government.

Monies collected by the federal government then are sent to the state, which in turn distributes the money to the county.

People who believe their refund checks are being diverted in error have little recourse to get their refund checks back. The courts decide what each non- custodial parent should pay. Parents who do not pay willingly are subject to have back payments deducted from any amount of money they are entitled to receive. They would have to go back to court to contest the seizure of their tax refunds.

Martin says it is getting easier to collect back payments from deadbeat parents. Deadbeat parents are usually ferreted out of hiding by their social security number, which is listed on everything from employment records to most all kinds of government records.

Once a social security number is entered into the child support agency’s system as belonging to a deadbeat parent, it is matched against social security numbers appearing in other systems, such as tax records.

"It’s getting harder to hide," Martin says. "Our computer systems are talking to each other!"