The season of income tax returns conjures thoughts of spending sprees and vacations, or padded savings and bill payments.
For thousands of Tazewell County residents, a particularly demanding bill comes from a collection agency the county uses to enforce payment of overdue court-ordered fines and costs, with prosecution as the possible price of failure.
For a week next month, the county Circuit Clerk’s Office will provide an incentive to pay those bills with the flush of federal and state tax returns.
The office will waive the 30-percent fee attached to payments referred to its collection firm for people who pay their criminal and traffic case fines and fees in full.
Circuit Clerk Linc Hobson has scheduled his office’s first Amnesty Week for March 12-16.
“We understand that people get kind of burdened down” by costs imposed for their transgressions, Hobson said. Waiving the 30-percent collection fee “will make it easier for them to get (the payment) over and be done with it.
“And if you can save 30 percent in the process, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Four years ago, Hobson opened his department’s Court Compliance Office to centralize the fine and fee collection process. A small staff helps defendants schedule payments to meet their budgets and monitors their progress. A defendant who falls behind is referred to B&D Collect, a collection company that Peoria County employs for the same purpose.
The firm has collected $3.42 million from 40,000 people referred to it by the Compliance Office since February 2014, Hobson said. That’s an average of $81 per person.
The clerk’s office has also received $2.4 million from defendants without the need of the collection agency’s services, he said, producing a total of about $5.63 million collected over the four years.
The 30-percent collection fee will be waived only if all delinquent accounts are paid in full, Hobson said. Defendants can pay by cash, cashier check, personal check, money order or credit or debit card.
Payments can be made in person at the Circuit Clerk’s Office in the County Courthouse between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week. Mailed payments must be postmarked by March 16.
Those wishing to pay electronically can do so through www.judici.com, but they must first notify the clerk’s office by calling 478-5699.
Additional information about Amnesty Week can be found at www.tazewellcountyil.com.