SOUTH PARK (KDKA) — When Melissa Pust of Baldwin got a letter, purportedly from the Township of South Park, she thought it might be a scam.
“They wanted wage taxes, back wage taxes, from 1994, 24 years ago,” Pust told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Friday.
At the time, Pust was a 16-year-old teenager living at home in South Park. Her so-called tax bill claimed she owed around $44, plus another $100 in penalty and interest for unpaid wage taxes in 1994, 1996 and 1997.
“I was totally astonished,” she said.
And she’s not alone in getting this kind of letter.
“My brother currently has one for $1,500, and a few other people who have contacted through Facebook told me anywhere amounts from $2,400, $3,800, to $8,000,” Pust said.
KDKA saw one bill alleging back wage taxes of $3,800, going back to 1996.
Repeated calls to South Park and the woman whose name was on the letter — Pam Nichol — have gone un-returned.
So KDKA cannot know if the letter Pust and others got are real or a scam.
If it’s real, Pust says it comes as a total surprise.
Pust: “I never knew until I received that certified letter.”
Delano: “Do you think you really do owe this money?”
Pust: “I honestly don’t know, because who saves their tax returns from 24 years ago?”
Here’s the problem for most taxpayers:
If a local government says that you owe back taxes from 20 years ago, are you going to have the records to dispute that? Probably not, because the IRS says you can destroy those records if they are older than seven years.
KDKA talked to one tax firm that advised: Go in person to the tax office and make them show solid evidence of your wage history for all the back years and how they arrived at the dollars they claim are owed, along with certified mail receipts that they had notified you at least once a year since their first claim.
The burden is on them, not you, to prove taxes due.
And you always have the right to get a tax attorney.