Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

A reader from southeastern North Dakota sent me the following letter:

“While living in a rural area of North Dakota, I have heard rumors of farm families who lost loved ones in our nation’s wars and who then quit cooperating with the government. Specifically, they quit paying income tax or even filing. Does North Dakota’s state tax commissioner have a formal policy dealing with such an unfortunate protest and how common is this reaction?”

Thanks for writing! I contacted Tax Commissioner Cory Fong. Nathan Bergman, supervisor of the Individual Income Tax Section, and public information officer Beth Boustead also contributed to the response.

“In North Dakota, we have laws set out in the North Dakota Century Code 57-38, which specifically address the North Dakota income tax, including identifying the type of income that is taxable. And it is the duty, by statute, of the Office of State Tax Commissioner to enforce these tax laws.

“To answer the question you posed, even though North Dakotans are known for their honesty and integrity, it is possible that there are individuals who, for some reason, feel they do not need to comply with North Dakota’s tax laws.

“The Tax Department does have in place a system for identifying taxpayers who are in non-compliance. In some instances, it is through information received from an outside source. In other instances, it is through an internal cross-check.

“My point is that those individuals who do not comply with the tax laws in North Dakota will likely be discovered. When that happens, there are penalties and other fees that may be added to the amount of tax owed. That will significantly increase the total amount that is due.

“That is why I encourage individuals to contact the Tax Department if they are experiencing a situation that will affect their ability to pay the tax due.

“Our mission is to fairly and effectively administer North Dakota’s tax laws. In doing so, we apply these tax laws uniformly to all residents and taxpayers. If an individual is experiencing financial hardship, such as a result of the loss of a loved one, they should contact the Tax Department to determine what we can do to work with them through their situation.

“While we cannot release them from their tax obligations, it is possible that some payment plan could be arranged.

“In the last year, we have contacted over 1,000 individuals who had income from North Dakota and failed to file a return. The vast majority of these are individuals who failed to file for a variety of reasons and only a small fraction are individuals who might fall into the ‘tax protestor’ category.

“Again, thank you for contacting us with your question. I hope this information is helpful.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.