Net Summary

ALBANY — To Barb Nolen it looks like the state of Oregon has money to waste on useless letters.

When Nolen, a registered nurse living in the Jefferson area, opened her mail last week, she found this from Salem:

"Dear Nursing Professional: The Department of Revenue is working with state agencies and boards to establish a relationship to let professional license and certificate holders know why it is important to comply with state tax laws."

The letter told her that her name was on a random list of license holders obtained from the Board of Nursing, as authorized by law.

"Our records show that you're complying with Oregon's tax laws. ... Thank you for filing and paying your Oregon individual income taxes. State taxes fund education, public safety, and human services for all Oregonians."

None of this was news to Nolen, who works at Salem Hospital in the recovery room and has been doing hospital nursing for 40 years.

"Obviously I already know these things, because I do file and pay my taxes every year and there's no need to contact me to tell me so," she said in an e-mail to the tax department and to the Albany Democrat-Herald.

She went on: "Now, in the current economy, and with the state's desperate attempts to balance the budget, I am certain that there are much better ways to spend my tax dollars than to send me stupid letters that tell me nothing, and waste paper, print and manpower to do so."

The letter she got was one result of a bill passed by the 2009 legislature directing the Revenue Department to launch a pilot project to deny occupational licenses to people out of compliance with tax law.

The state already has the legal ability to deny licenses to people who refuse to pay taxes they owe, according to legislative staff report on the 2009 bill, HB 3082.

"The intent of the policy included in this bill is to create a deterrent effect when such licenses are issued with the goal of increasing efficiencies in tax compliance," the report said.

The staff estimated the pilot project — involving about 10,000 additional compliance checks taking a few minutes each, could be run with existing personnel and would cost about $36,000. The staff estimated the added revenue as "minimal," defined as less than $50,000.

In the information part of the project, the Revenue Department sent letters to 17,500 nurses. Most got the version Nolen received because they, like her, had no tax problems. An estimated 10 percent got one saying how they could come into tax compliance, according to Rosemary Hardin, a spokeswoman for the department.