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The Commons
Town and Village

Town wraps up IRS issues

Originally published in The Commons issue #408 (Wednesday, May 17, 2017).



PUTNEY—The town may soon be out of the weeds with its IRS troubles.

Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard told the Selectboard at their April 26 regular meeting she is working on the last outstanding tax issue Putney has with the feds.

For the past few years, town officials have wrung their hands over fees, penalties, and missing tax forms resulting from former Treasurer Anita Coomes’s challenges with filing accurate and timely state and federal reports.

Coomes told The Commons the new online filing system confounded her. Meanwhile, the Selectboard had no recourse: Coomes was an elected official, and they couldn’t reprimand or remove her.

During the past year, Stoddard took over some of Coomes’s duties. Also, Stoddard and Board members restructured the town finance department. They limited the treasurer’s duties to signing checks, and they created a bookkeeper position. This person would assume most of the treasurer’s former tasks — and as an appointed position, the Board could hire, manage, and if necessary, fire that person.

Coomes didn’t seek re-election this year, and the town is in the process of hiring a part-time bookkeeper.

Stoddard recently visited the Brattleboro IRS office to address the final lingering issue.

Because the 2012 W-2 forms the town filed didn’t match the IRS’s records, the town faced a $42,000 fine. Stoddard successfully convinced the IRS to reduce it to $3,400. But when she brought the correct W-2 forms to the office, the agent told her the fees were from a late filing, not a mismatch.

In response, Stoddard sent a letter to the IRS asking them to further abate the penalties.

In the letter, she pleaded with the feds, pointing out that: Putney is a small municipality and cannot easily absorb a $3,400 fee; she received two different answers from IRS agents about the cause of the fees; and the town is taking concrete steps to avoid it in the future, including hiring a new bookkeeper.

Although Putney could still owe $3,400 if the IRS offers no further abatement, Stoddard did bring back good news from her visit to the Brattleboro office: “That’s it. That’s the only one. We’re cleared up,” she said.

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