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Tax Commission Targets Licensed Professionals

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Tax Commission recovered nearly $60 million during the first four years of a program that checks whether state-licensed professionals have unpaid state income taxes.

About 75,000 violators have been discovered since the scrutiny began six years ago, said Paula Ross, spokeswoman for the Tax Commission.

In the first four years, about $58 million was recovered. The total collected for last year and this year is not yet available.

The program is similar to one used to identify state employees who fail to pay state income taxes.

The Tax Commission compares income tax returns with payroll data to identify state employees who haven't paid their taxes. It compares tax returns with information on professional license applications to identify licensees who are in violation of state tax laws.

The Oklahoman reported in July that the Tax Commission had notified state agencies they should begin firing 296 state employees who had failed to comply with state income tax laws despite receiving numerous warnings.

The Tax Commission can't fire professional license holders. However, when licensees refuse to pay income taxes or work out a payout agreement, the commission notifies their licensing agencies so their license renewals can be blocked.

Or, in the case of lawyers, the Tax Commission notifies the Oklahoma Bar Association so it can initiate suspension proceedings.

A letter was sent to the association in April asking it to initiate suspension procedures against 36 attorneys.

``We try and do everything possible to ensure and help a person become compliant,'' Ross said. ``It is never our goal to prevent an individual from receiving a license. Our goal with our compliance efforts is that if everyone pays their share, it makes it equitable for all.''

Doctors, lawyers, architects, nurses, engineers, pharmacists and dozens of other professionals must be licensed to do business in Oklahoma.
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