Tolliver's no tax collector

Comptroller's enforcer: Making former police official chief of state tax compliance arm is a mistake.

June 01, 1999

COMPTROLLER William Donald Schaefer wants to crack down on scofflaws avoiding legitimate state taxes, but hiring Larry Tolliver could hurt, not help, his effort.

Mr. Schaefer is disturbed that untaxed cigarettes and alcohol and long-distance transactions escape Maryland's 5 percent sales tax. Hiring Mr. Tolliver won't straighten out a complex interstate situation that requires federal attention.

Why is Maryland adopting a get-tough stance with taxpayers just as Congress has forced the Internal Revenue Service into a taxpayer-friendly mode of collection?

The skills and disposition of the former state police superintendent and Anne Arundel chief of police are precisely the opposite needed to deal with tax compliance issues.

Mr. Tolliver likes to stage well-publicized raids, seize cars and dramatically display police might.

His aggressive "hands on" brand of law enforcement may garner lots of television coverage and marginally curb the inflow of bootleg tobacco and booze into Maryland, but randomly stopping trucks and checking manifests is neither an efficient nor effective method of collecting sales tax on goods purchased out of state.

Mr. Tolliver's past efforts to make examples of lawbreakers have often backfired.

His stumbling but well-publicized raid to root out prostitution and drugs on The Block in Baltimore severely tarnished the reputation of the State Police. Mr. Tolliver's fondness for seizing cars of people caught with minor amounts of drugs did little to curb drug use in Anne Arundel County but embroiled police and prosecutors in politically embarrassing squabbles over disposing of the vehicles.

When Mr. Tolliver's temporary contract expires, the Board of Public Works should not create a permanent position for him in the comptroller's office.

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