Yesterday the earth beneath my feet could have crumbled and I’d not have noticed. I walked to my mailbox after a busy morning of errand running with my husband, Joseph. We were happy. I mean, really happy. The kind of happiness that comes not from a vacation to some exotic destination or from buying a new dress that fits you just right. We were the kind of happy that exists in peace. We had peace. Joseph started a new job just a month ago, the pay is amazing, the work environment is incredible, and this week we’d be finalizing buying our home and beginning repairs. We had peace.
And the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Taxation ripped that peace away from us.
On July 21st, 2018 we received a Notice of Lien and Demand of Payment from Virginia’s taxation department. Why? Because the state of Virginia believes we lived there in 2014, even though we have been living and working in Huntsville, Alabama since 2009.
In February 2008 my husband took a job in Mannassas, Virginia working for a government contractor there. I was nearly 8 months pregnant but we made the move because it felt like the right thing for his career. We lived in Virginia until July 2009 when another company based in Alabama hired Joseph away from NOVA, bringing us back home to Alabama.
We packed our U-Haul and bid Virginia goodbye, feeling as though that chapter of our lives had closed. Within a year we were again legal residents of Alabama and paid state taxes as Alabama residents, as my well kept tax records can prove.
But, Virginia didn’t get the message we’d moved. We’d closed every account we ever had in Virginia. We had no home nor other business in Virginia. All our debtors had been notified of the move and all our mail had been forwarded. But again, Virginia clearly didn’t get the message.
The state of Virginia believes we lived in Virginia in 2014. Why 2014? We have no idea. We don’t believe there is any significance to them choosing this year and are convinced this is the result of a clerical error. But, error or not, Virginia is a Sovereign Immunity state and as such can not be held liable for clerical mistakes, regardless of how those mistakes might devastate the lives of others.
And we are devastated.
On July 5th, without our knowledge, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Taxation placed a lien against my husband to the tune of just over $6000. For those of you who are not familiar (as we weren’t) this means the state of Virginia has the legal right to freeze our assets and attempt to collect the $6000 amount in erroneous taxes they claim we did not pay for a year we were not residents in Virginia.
I know what you’re thinking: huh?? This sounds like a scam!
It does, doesn’t it? But, sadly for us, it is not. And sadly we are not the first people this has happened to. Hours of Googling and perusing threads and tax attorney’s websites brought us the news that this is indeed a thing Virginia does to non-residents all-the-time and there is nothing we can do to stop it once it is set in motion.
Our 2014 tax return form showing we are legal residents of Alabama.
If you’re still trying to wrap your brain around how Virginia can legally freeze our bank accounts and collect unpaid taxes for a year when we did not live in Virginia, don’t feel bad. We’re still coming to terms with it too. But, it did happen, it is legal, and it CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.
So, what comes next?
Well, for starters we have to contact the Department of Taxation to begin the appeals process. This can take weeks. When the Department of Taxation receives the appeals forms they can freeze the lien and stop it from collecting funds directly from our bank account (which we will have been locked out of) until they get to the bottom of the situation. But again, this can take weeks, if not longer.
If they have already drained our bank accounts and locked us out of them, there is nothing we can do about the money they’ve taken. After we have submitted our proof that we were legal residents of Alabama in 2014, there is still the issue of Virginia returning our funds to us. According to a tax attorney they will eventually give it back. But it will take time.
So, at some point within the next few weeks it is very likely we will be flat broke. We will not have access to my husband’s paycheck or our bank accounts. And we will not get the money they take from us back for some time.
But, it gets worse.
At the beginning of July my husband submitted his application for a security clearance for his new job. On these applications you are asked, “Do you have any state or federal liens against you?” He answered, “No.” Because of course he did. Why wouldn’t he? Sadly, we did not know about this lien because Virginia didn’t know where we lived. So, Virginia sent the above letter out on June 21st, it was sent to the apartment we lived in over 10 years ago, and then returned to their office. By the time they found our current address, it was after they’d submitted the final lien notice (due date July 5th) and begun processing the removal of our funds.
Basically, now it looks like Joseph lied on his security clearance application.
And there is nothing we can do about it. And lying on a security clearance application is a career ender. My husband may lose his job and his credibility in his field, after over a decade of experience, passion, and sacrifices.
This is no exaggeration: the state of Virginia is legally destroying our lives based on inaccurate claims that we owe taxes for a year we were not residents of that state. And it is all completely legal and we can not sue them for the damage they are doing to our livelihood and our future because of their Sovereign Immunity laws.
So, maybe you’re now asking what YOU can do to help us. And I will be honest with you: we desperately need your help.
We have contacted a lawyer, filled out forms, and we are ready to fight these claims tooth and nail. But, WE NEED HELP.
We need the media to be aware of what’s happening to us. We need other people who have lived in Virginia or currently live in Virginia to know that THIS CAN HAPPEN TO THEM TOO.
Here’s how you can help:
Share this blog post.
Contact the news affilliates in my area about what is happening using this script:
VA places erroneous tax lien on AL residents
“The Commonwealth of Virginia Dept of Taxation has placed a lien against a TN Valley family for unpaid taxes for the year of 2014. They have lived in Alabama as legal residents since 2009. On July 21st, 2018 Tamara Canup and her husband Joseph Graves received a Notice of Lien and Demand of Payment from Virginia’s dept of taxation and there is nothing they can do to stop them from draining their bank accounts until they have fulfilled their claim of over $6000 in unpaid taxes, despite the fact that Tamara and Joseph did not live in Virginia nor had property or business with Virginia in 2014.
They are not the only people this has happened to. This threat will devastate this family’s finances and is compromising Joseph’s recent security clearance application as an aerospace engineer working for a government contractor in Huntsville.
What is happening to this family can happen to anyone who has ever lived in Virginia at any time in their life. The Commonwealth of Virginia Dept of Taxation did not bother contacting Joseph or Tamara to verify their legal resident status prior to placing this lien. They are facing the threat of not only losing this $6000 but also Joseph losing his job. And it can happen to anyone. Any resident of any state is subject to threats of this nature from Commonwealth of Virginia Dept of Taxation if they ever lived in Virginia at any point in their lives. And because Virginia has Sovereign Immunity, they can not sue the state of Virginia for the loss of income, the damage to Joseph’s credit, the damage to any future attempts to gain a security clearance, and the financial tailspin this lien is going to put this family into.
Essentially, the state of Viriginia is going to ruin their lives because they don’t know who actually lives in their state and who doesn’t. And it can happen to ANYONE.
We would greatly appreciate any help your news team can give us to bring light to this issue that other TN Valley residents could be at risk of experiencing as well.
Please contact Tamara Canup at TamaraCanup@gmail.com for additional information.”
PLEASE forward this message to the following email addresses:
Doing so might help us gain some traction and make others aware that they too might be at risk of this happening to them. Information is a powerful weapon and right now it is the best tool we have to combat this threat to our livelihood.
For now, we pray and we wait. The amount of sheer terror we feel has almost no words. The money is one thing, but my husband losing a career he is so proud of and worked so hard for is beyond the scope of my understanding and acceptance. The state of Virginia is ruining us. And it can not abide.
Please share. Please. We need your emails. It’s all we have now.