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Back taxes park state drivers

Henrietta, N.Y. -- Pay your taxes or lose your driver's licenses.

That's the consequence New York state residents who have more than $10,000 in back taxes face.

Nearly 9,000 drivers had their driver's licenses suspended for failing to pay taxes they owe the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday. That's roughly half of the people who received the first round of notifications for the tax threat in August.

"I'm just amazed at what they're doing here, strongarming you with your license," Ralph Taliento said.

More than 17,700 suspension warnings were sent out by the state. According to the governor's office, 6,500 people have either paid their debt or are on a payment plan, resulting in a tax collection increase of roughly $56.4 million for the government.

The state issued 2,300 exemptions. People with a commercial driver's license and those who have wage garnishment for child support cannot have their license suspended.

Driving privileges were revoke and driver's licenses were suspended for nearly 8,900 other state residents.

Drivers have 60 days from the date they receive the suspension notice from the Tax Department to pay or set up a payment plan. The Department of Motor Vehicles sends a second letter after the 60 days, providing an additional 15 days to respond. The DMV is then authorized to suspend the license until the debt or a payment plan is arranged.

"They're extorting you," Taliento said. "I can't believe it. I just can't believe it."

He called the move an example of the government overstepping its bounds.

"That's a great point," said attorney Scott Shimick. "But these people did fail to pay their taxes. If they should have owed taxes before, this is the state recouping. And it actually benefits all the taxpayers who did pay their taxes."

A steep punishment, Shimick said it's a good way to make people pay.

"You can still make arrangements to pay your taxes once your license has been suspended," Shimick said. "At that point, it's too late to challenge that actual underlying tax liability."

People who get their licenses suspended can also apply to get a restricted license so they can drive to work or school.

 
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