Community Issues

School District to Publish Names of Tax Delinquents

But is public shaming an effective way to collect payments?

Highlands School District will begin publishing the names of people delinquent on their property taxes, starting April 1.

The Tribune-Review reports the School Board voted Monday night to publish the names on the district's website. In Februrary, the southwestern Pennsylvania school district's business manager Lori Byron said the district was owed more than $11 million in delinquent taxes.

If you owe taxes to the district, you can avoid having your name published by beginning payments by April 1.

While publishing the names of people late on their tax payments may seem like a modern-day "Scarlet Letter," but there is data that suggests the policy could be effective. A 2018 study from the UCLA Anderson School of Management found that people were 20 percent more likely to pay back taxes or start payment plans when threatened with a "public shaming" than those who were not notified. However, the study also found the shaming strategy was only effective for people who owed $2,500 or less in taxes, suggesting there is a limit to what people will pay to protect their reputation.

Interestingly, the public shaming of people delinquent on taxes is not unusual. The UCLA Anderson Review reports that approximately half of the states, including Pennsylvania, Florida, and California publish the names of tax delinquents. Additionally, "public tax shaming is prevalent around the world, notably, in Bangalore, India, where the government sends drummers out to homes and offices to embarrass people who refuse to pay their tax bills."

If you owe taxes to the Highlands School District and do not want your name to be published, the district says you can set up a payment plan with the district's delinquent real estate tax collector, the law firm of Weiss Burkardt Kramer LLC.

Let us know what you think! Is public shaming an effective way of collecting payments from tax delinquents?

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