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Time to pay taxes

by Rick Thomas
| April 14, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - This is not generally the time of year when many sing the praises of tax officials.

But Valleta O'Day is outspokenly operatic in vocalizing her appreciation of the Coeur d'Alene office of the Idaho State Tax Commission, and its manager in particular.

"This is a really great governmental agency," O'Day said.

The company she and her husband Paul operate, O'Day Custom Construction, had an issue that for a contractor is akin to a wood stake through the heart - a tax lien.

She had arranged a payment plan through the Coeur d'Alene office, but the state office was no help in getting the lien removed.

Then something almost unheard of happened. Diana Nottage, field office manager for the North Idaho branch of the agency at 1910 Northwest Blvd., admitted to an error.

"It was my mistake," Nottage said. "I told her she had 90 days to clear it up, but I didn't put a hold on the account."

Automation kicked in, and the lien was filed in Boise. A visit to the Coeur d'Alene office resolved the matter quickly.

Nottage, a 30-year veteran of civil service, mostly with the tax commission and eight years in the Coeur d'Alene office, got the lien removed, much to the relief of O'Day.

"If people would go in there and work with her, all their problems will go away," O'Day said. "It's hard. People have lost jobs, and are having a lot of trouble."

For Nottage, it's a way of doing the public's business she learned from being on the other side of the problem.

"I had an experience when I was in my early 20s," she said. "I was operating a business, but it was hard to understand how taxes work. The IRS was extremely scary. They were not honest, and would not provide enough information."

While 60 percent of those who come to the office with tax problems are individuals, the rest is business-related.

"Business owners are afraid of taxes," Nottage said. "They do their own marketing, bookkeeping and sales. The bookkeeping is last. What they don't understand can be a little frightening. My mission is to take away any fear of taxes. The government should be here to explain the rules and regulations so people can make decisions based on facts and laws."

Nottage insists the other 18 employees of the office follow her lead.

"How can I serve the people is the attitude of this office," she said.

The worst mistake people can make is to avoid facing the issue of overdue taxes, she said.

"It is a natural fear to be afraid of taxes," Nottage said.

But if they are willing to work with the tax office on a payment plan, most of the sting of paying can be prevented.

O'Day seconds that.

"Diana will bend over for you, and do anything she can for you," she said. "You don't have to run and hide."

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