Fourteen-Year-Old Worker Fined $352 for Not Filing Tax Return on $3.16 Paid in Taxes

A Pennsylvania tax collection bureau fined a teenager $352 and threatened her with arrest for not filing a local income tax return on $316 of work.

Fourteen-Year-Old Worker Fined $352 for Not Filing Tax Return on $3.16 Paid in Taxes

Laurie Hanniford, a 17-year-old high school junior in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was mystified by the certified letter she picked up at the post office in May, 2003.

Was it her senior driver’s license, or perhaps something from a college?

Unfortunately, no. It was a criminal complaint threatening her with arrest.

Hanniford called her parents from the post office. According to the Associated Press, Hanniford’s mother said Laurie “couldn’t drive, she was crying so hard.”

When she was 14 years old, Hanniford had worked part-time as a swim instructor. That summer, she made $316. The $3.16 she owed in taxes was deducted from her paychecks. Three years later, the letter said, she was being fined $352 – more than she had made – for not filing a local tax return in conjunction with the $3.16 she had paid in taxes.

The Capital Tax Collection Bureau, which collects taxes from 75 localities and school districts, said it had sent her three notices informing her that she had to file a return. It took legal action when she did not respond. The Hannifords said they never received the letters, and the CTCB’s own bureau director admitted that the notices are often mistaken for junk mail.

“It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of to fine her – she was 14 at the time – for taxes that have already been paid,” said Hanniford’s mother Sarah.

Even though Hanniford had paid her taxes on time, she still paid a heavy price for not filing the paperwork. The teenager was forced to appear in front of District Justice Susan Day to defend herself, where she pleaded no contest. Her fine was then reduced to $77.

According to the Associated Press, about two dozen other teens received letters similar to Laurie’s.

Sources: Pittsburgh Post Gazette (June 6, 2003), CBS News (June 6, 2003), Associated Press (June 8, 2003)

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