Updated:CENTRAL FLORIDA,None —
Every year, huge amounts of unpaid debt are referred by Florida leaders to collection agencies. But data show the vast majority of that money is never tracked down, leaving other taxpayers holding the bag.
No one answered at the home that A-Plus Janitorial Service's listed as its business address. Records show the company owes $841,000 in taxes that will likely never be paid.
Also long gone are the Kissimmee hotel owners who are $149,000 behind, and the Par Golf Tours operators who still have an active website and nearly $108,000 in outstanding fees.
The businesses are just three local examples of thousands of big debtors to the state. Since 2006, at least $692 million worth of unpaid taxes, judgements, fees and other debts became so far overdue, they were referred to collection agencies.
But we discovered state data showing sometimes as little as $11 out of every $100 is ever actually tracked down by collectors.
Last year alone, the state simply wrote $110 million of debt off its books, concerned that it will never be collected.
Consumer watchdog Lonnie Thompson said taxpayers expect a much higher percentage of accounts receivable to be paid up.
"I think the average person is a little bit upset about that," Thompson said.
The outstanding debt could help fill Florida's $1 billion to $2 billion budget gap. Right now, that gap is forcing big cuts to services for the elderly, the mentally ill, and children.
Thompson said savvy debtors may know how to avoid collectors.
"They know that they can write them a letter saying 'don't call me anymore,' and they don't have any recourse unless they want to take a person to court," Thompson said.
But often, the state can't even find the debtors to sue them.
Collectors for the Department of Business Regulation, for example, gave up on Prime Orlando Properties' $61,000 in fines after trying for 23 years.
Another local man died before collectors got his $20,000.